A distracted group of Toronto Blue Jays will take the field in Pittsburgh on Friday night, wondering when, if (or if ever) the shoe will drop on manager John Gibbons, pitching coach Gary Denbo or general manager J.P. Ricciardi.
Talk about their future has dominated the media back home over the last few days and for a club that put in such a strong May after a rotten April, this month has been pretty much a surprising nightmare.
Falling 8-7 to Milwaukee on Thursday to close out a sweep by the Brewers left the Jays with a five-game losing streak, 13 defeats in their last 17 and dead last in the American League East at 35-39.
Toronto is now 10 ½ games back of first place Boston and nine back of the Tampa Bay Rays, who currently hold the wild card playoff spot in the AL.
Roy Halladay (8-6, 3.09) starts against the Pirates, coming off his first loss in almost six weeks. That most recent defeat saw the ace go just five innings against the Chicago Cubs, allowing six runs (two earned).
Halladay is working for his fifth manager (Tim Johnson, Jim Fregosi, Carlos Tosca, Buck Martinez and Gibbons) and the way things are going he may soon be introduced to No. 6.
Right now, he has to hope his strong record in interleague starts (16-8, 3.14 earned run average in 27 career starts) will be enough to beat the team with the worst career record in these American vs. National encounters.
Going back to the start of interleague play in 1997, the Pirates have a .372 winning percentage against the AL — easily the worst in the majors.
The Pirates (34-39 overall) are 1-5 against the AL so far this year, a record that includes losing two of three to the Baltimore Orioles and getting swept by the Chicago White Sox.
That last loss in the Windy City this week was looking great for a while as the Bucs held a 6-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Three outs later the game was tied and eventually Pittsburgh fell 13-8.
"We've almost got to act like it didn't even happen and start over," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "There's obviously no momentum right now, and we've got to find a way to pull our team back together."
Facing Halladay is Zach Duke (4-4, 4.24 ERA), who is strong at home and can't pitch for beans on the road. Bad luck for the Jays — this series is in Pittsburgh.
Toronto swept the Pirates in Toronto five years ago, and that's the only time they've played each other.
Saturday's matchup is Jesse Litsch (7-3, 3.70) against Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm (4-5, 4.45) at 7 p.m. ET on CBC, and on Sunday it's Dustin McGown (5-5, 4.15) for Toronto against Ian Snell (3-7, 5.84) at 1:30 p.m. ET on CBC.With files from the Associated Press