After a successful road trip that appeared to spur some serious team bonding, the Toronto Blue Jays can now show that team unity on a quick five-game homestand that starts Tuesday with a two-game interleague series against the San Francisco Giants.
Mired in a 5-11 start, having been thumped in a three-game series at home by the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays reversed their fortunes last week with a series victory against the Minnesota Twins and a sweep at Oakland against the Athletics.
Now comes a second helping of the Bay Area, although this one will be at Rogers Centre. Oakland will turn around and follow the Giants into Toronto.
After winning six of their last seven games to nearly pull even on the season, the Blue Jays (11-12) can now continue that run against the struggling Giants, who lost four consecutive games and five of six before nailing a runner at the plate Sunday to end a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Nothing has come easy for the Giants, who started the season 3-8 and have an 18-inning marathon victory at Colorado to their credit on April 12.
San Francisco may be in town to see the major league debut of top Toronto prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The 20-year-old son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero has a .331 average in 285 minor league games, and there is plenty of speculation that he will be promoted prior to the Tuesday opener.
Blue Jays rookie right-hander Trent Thornton (0-2, 5.40 ERA) gets a chance to bounce back from a pair of rough outings. The Giants are next to last in the National League in runs scored with 67 and San Francisco is also next to last in the NL with a .270 on-base percentage.
Thornton has given up a combined nine earned runs over his last two outings (7 2/3 innings), taking the loss in each to the Rays and Twins.
To get back to being the pitcher that gave up three hits or less with at least seven strikeouts in each of his first two career starts, Thornton will need to show the fastball command that started to reemerge toward the end of his short outing Wednesday against the Twins.
"The last two innings, to me, I felt like it was finally clicking for me," Thornton said. "I was making good pitches, finally working ahead in counts. But I need to get off to a better start to help the team win and get deeper into games."
The Giants will counter with veteran right-hander Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 2.91), who has gotten off to a fast start, although he will enter off his worst game of the season. Against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Samardzija gave up four runs on five hits over five innings, but did match a season best with seven strikeouts.
Samardzija did not give up an earned run in two of his first three outings, but the Nationals don't seem to care what kind of form he is in. The loss was Samardzija's seventh consecutive to Washington.
Against the Blue Jays, though, the longtime National Leaguer is 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA, but the sample size is small: three starts, 23 innings.
Known for allowing home runs in bunches, Samardzija has not given up a home run to the Blue Jays in his career, and did not allow one in his first three starts this season. But he gave up two to the Nationals last week and lost.
"I talk about it a lot, about being ahead in the count and being able to make the pitches that you want and I feel like we were behind in the count a lot (at Washington)," Samardzija said.
--Field Level Media
Blue Jays look to remain hot versus Giants