TORONTO — Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins will have a chance to see the results of their hard work over the past few years.
Their former team, the Cleveland Indians, will be riding a 12-game winning streak when it visits the Rogers Centre for a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays that starts Thursday.
Shapiro, the Blue Jays president and CEO, and Atkins, the club’s general manager, joined Toronto late last season after previously working for the Indians.
"I’m deeply invested in them and their performance and I’m pulling for them," Shapiro told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "The only time I’m not pulling for them are the seven or eight times we play them. I’ll absolutely be pulling against them in those games.
"I’d sign up right now to play them in the playoffs and beat them in the playoffs. That’d be fine with me because they’re a group I believe in and care about."
Shapiro was with the Indians for 24 years and rose to president and CEO before moving to the Blue Jays last November, bringing with him Atkins, who was vice president of player personnel with Cleveland.
They will watch Thursday when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (5-8, 4.23 ERA) takes the mound for Toronto and right-hander Carlos Carrasco (3-2, 2.73 ERA) starts for Cleveland.
The Blue Jays finished a six-game trip at 3-3 after winning the final two games against the Colorado Rockies, including a 5-3 decision Wednesday.
"If you finish .500 on a road trip, that’s a pretty good road trip," said Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit his 18th homer of the season Wednesday. "Obviously, you want to win more than that, but we salvaged it today."
The Indians defeated the Atlanta Braves 3-0 Wednesday to extend their winning streak to 12 games. It is the club’s longest since a 13-game winning string in 1951, which equaled the franchise record set in 1942. The Indians’ starting staff is 9-0 with a 1.91 ERA during the streak, having outscored the opposition 76-25.
"You always have to turn the page," Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game Wednesday. "If we don’t, Toronto will turn it for us. We’ve got another game in about 18 hours. We’ve got to get up there and get prepared. It should be a fun weekend."
Dickey allowed four home runs against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday but picked up the win in Toronto’s 10-8 victory. He is 3-2 with a 3.34 ERA in June. In 13 career games against Cleveland, including seven starts, he is 4-2 with a 3.14 ERA.
Carrasco pitched his third career shutout and the seventh complete game of his career Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. He is 1-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three career starts against Toronto. It will be his first start at Rogers Centre. He allowed two runs on three hits in one inning of relief on May 14, 2014, at Toronto.
He will be facing some hot hitters. Donaldson is one an eight-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 19 of his past 20 games, batting .423 (33-for-78) with six doubles, four triples, five home runs and 22 RBIs in that span.
Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion was 2-for-3 with an RBI on Wednesday, and his 70 RBIs lead the majors. He has 30 RBIs in June.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis had a two-run single Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
The Blue Jays’ bullpen is also expected to be reinforced Thursday with the return of left-handed reliever Brett Cecil (triceps) from the disabled list. Another left-handed reliever, Franklin Morales (shoulder) is also close to a return. Toronto had no left-handed relievers available for the series in Colorado.
The Indians’ bullpen was needed for just two innings Wednesday as Danny Salazar struck out eight without walking a batter in his seven-inning start. He earned his 10th win of the season, and he was happy to keep the team’s streak alive.
"It’s been great," Salazar said. "We’ve been pitching good, and the hitting has been amazing. We’re competing and having fun out there. That’s really important for us."