The Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers both hope to have an All-Star rejoin their respective lineups Tuesday when they meet at Rogers Centre.
Jose Bautista’s potential return could be especially crucial for the Blue Jays, however, given their recent slump and shrinking advantage atop the AL East.
Toronto (45-39) is second-to-last in the AL since June 7 with a 7-15 record since winning 20 of 24. The Blue Jays are one loss shy of matching a season-worst skid, scoring seven runs in three straight losses while going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
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They were shut out for a fifth time this season – and fourth time in 22 games – in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the White Sox.
"Since our big streak, we’ve cooled off quite a bit," manager John Gibbons said. "We need to get going."
Bautista grounded into a fielder’s choice as a pinch hitter, but hasn’t started since leaving Toronto’s June 22 loss at Cincinnati with a strained left hamstring.
Bautista, who has 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 78 games and homered three times in his last three matchups with Milwaukee, told MLB’s official website he hopes to serve as designated hitter Tuesday.
Brett Lawrie, tied for third on the team with 12 homers, is also out with a broken right index finger.
"They’re a big part of it, no question about that," Gibbons said of those two injured players.
The Brewers (51-33) own the NL’s best record and have won 10 of 12 away from home. Carlos Gomez didn’t play in Sunday’s 10-4 loss to Colorado due to a strained neck suffered in an outfield collision with Ryan Braun on Saturday. Gomez, who has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 interleague games with five home runs and 14 RBIs, is expected to play.
Milwaukee should benefit from Monday’s off-day after playing 20 contests in as many days. The Brewers gave up three runs while being charged with two errors on one play in the fifth inning of Sunday’s loss.
"You can have those plays any time," manager Ron Roenicke said. ”You get down when you see it, so it’s hard to bounce back after a play like that."
Braun hit his 11th home run of the season and his six extra-base hits and nine RBIs over his last nine games. He’s also homered three times with seven RBIs in six career games versus Toronto.
Brewers starter Marco Estrada (7-4, 5.06 ERA) owns a 6.94 ERA over his last seven starts but is 4-3 in that span, largely thanks to a 9.8 run-support average.
He’s won the last two and looked sharp in a 9-2 victory over Washington on Wednesday, though, giving up two runs and a season-low two hits over 6 1-3 innings. He also didn’t allow a home run for just the second time in 16 starts.
The Blue Jays counter with Drew Hutchison (5-6, 4.00), who has given up four or more runs in four of his last six outings. He allowed four runs and seven hits over six innings in a 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday
"He’s still a young kid," Gibbons said. "He’s going to go through his growing pains."
Hutchison has given up 10 runs over 11 innings in his two interleague starts.
The Brewers have won 11 of the last 13 meetings and took two of three at home in the clubs’ most recent series in 2012.