Cubs-Blue Jays Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays are entering the final three weeks of the season with four teams to pass for the final AL wild-card spot.

In order to gain ground, they’ll need to take advantage of a six-game homestand against two under-.500 clubs, starting Monday night against the Chicago Cubs.

Toronto (73-69) didn’t do that in Boston over the weekend, dropping the first two games of the series before avoiding a sweep with Sunday’s 3-1 victory.

Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer to continue a power surge that includes seven home runs and 12 RBIs over an 11-game hitting streak. Adam Lind contributed three hits and is 9 for 18 over five games, raising his average to .321.

The team has won six of eight and knows it needs a similar clip over the final 20 games to make up a five-game deficit.

"You have to take the positives out of the road trip, 4-2 is nice," R.A. Dickey told MLB’s official website after Sunday’s win. "I’ve always said that we need to get to 90 wins somehow to have a shot and I know that’s a tall order, but it’s not impossible. Keep grinding it out and take advantage of teams that aren’t high up in the standings, we have to win those types of games."

Marcus Stroman follows Dickey in the rotation.

Stroman (9-5, 3.83 ERA) has won consecutive starts after struggling through his first four in August. The rookie was 0-3 with an 8.66 ERA in those outings but closed the month on a high note before earning the decision in Wednesday’s 7-4 win in Tampa Bay. Stroman allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings.

"It’s just baseball, sometimes you go through a tough stretch," Stroman said. "Same confidence, same game plan, tried to attack hitters each time out. Just went better."

The NL hasn’t cause him any problems in a start and three relief outings, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA.

Chicago’s offense didn’t cause many problems being swept in three games by Pittsburgh, scoring seven runs total after Sunday’s 10-4 loss.

The depleted Cubs (64-79) continued to struggle at the top of the order with leadoff hitter Arismendy Alcantara extending his slump to 2 for 19, while No. 2 hitter Javier Baez is 2 for 29 with 14 strikeouts in seven games.

Manager Rick Renteria at least expects Alcantara to turn it around.

"We know he has the speed to be a top-of-the-order guy," Renteria said. "We also know he has a history in the minor leagues of being able to get on base. There’s nothing that says he can’t do it here."

On the mound, the Cubs counter with Jacob Turner.

Turner (5-8, 5.54) has posted some decent numbers since joining the Cubs with a 1-1 record and 3.14 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances. He earned his first win with the team in last Monday’s 4-2 victory over Milwaukee after allowing one run and five hits while matching a season-high seven strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.

"It’s definitely a step in the right direction," Turner said. "I’m just happy I’ve been able to build on some of the stuff that me and (pitching coach Chris Bosio) have been working on. I made the pitches when I needed to when guys got on base, especially in the first inning. Getting through that catapulted me through the rest of the game."

The right-hander has never faced Toronto and is 3-3 with a 7.04 ERA in 10 career starts against the AL.