Rangers-Blue Jays Preview
Things are finally starting to go the Toronto Blue Jays' way.
Seeking a season high-tying fourth consecutive win, host Toronto tries to sweep the slumping Texas Rangers for the first time in three seasons Sunday.
While the Blue Jays (27-34) entered the year expected to compete for the AL East crown, they instead find themselves at the bottom of the division. Toronto, though, is showing signs of life, winning four of five to give it 14 victories in the past 24 games.
After taking the series opener 6-1 on Friday, the Blue Jays beat the Rangers 4-3 in 18 innings Saturday, matching the longest game in both clubs' history. Toronto collected 15 hits, none bigger than Rajai Davis' game-winning, two-out single.
"Relief, a lot of relief," Davis said. "Thank God, wow. I think it's the longest game of my career."
The Blue Jays, who won four straight May 11-15, haven't swept the Rangers (36-25) since taking three matchups May 14-16, 2010.
Toronto will send Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) to the hill to help accomplish that feat. The right-hander was sharp in his first start back since missing more than five weeks due to inflammation in his triceps, giving up two runs over seven innings of a 2-1 loss at San Francisco on Thursday.
"We missed him," manager John Gibbons said. "You watch a performance like that, that's what Josh Johnson is."
While Johnson - a two-time All-Star - has yet to live up to expectations since being acquired from Miami in the offseason, the Jays are hoping he'll provide a big lift.
"It felt good to be out there and to go to battle with these guys," he told MLB's official website. "I finally had that bite I have been looking for where (my curveball) wasn't up and out, it was out and then down. It kind of keeps the hitters off balance. I was able to change speeds on a couple of them and I think it started with my slider."
In his only matchup with Texas, Johnson allowed one run and struck out seven in as many innings during a 3-2 loss June 15, 2010, while with the Marlins.
The Rangers have dropped eight of 12 and a season high-tying three straight, a losing streak in which they've gone 4 for 34 with runners in scoring position. Texas, 1 for 19 in those situations Saturday, has been outscored 49-25 while dropping seven of eight on the road.
"We kept putting ourselves in position to get something done and it didn't happen," manager Ron Washington said. "'But I'll keep taking us putting ourselves in position. Pretty soon, we'll break through."
The Rangers will try to get on track behind rookie Justin Grimm (5-4, 5.13), who was hit hard in a 17-5 loss at Boston on Tuesday. The right-hander allowed a career-high eight runs before being removed with two outs in the second inning.
"I didn't feel in control at all. My fastball command wasn't there, some other things weren't there," he said. "There's no need to overthink it. That's an easy fix. I feel confident I can fix it."
Making his first appearance against Toronto, Grimm will need to be wary of Adam Lind, who's 27 for his last 56 with two homers and 11 runs.
Texas' Adrian Beltre went 1 for 8 on Saturday, but he's batting .379 with four homers and nine RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.