Dodgers-Blue Jays Preview
It wasn't supposed to be this difficult for the Toronto Blue Jays, who put up a half-run more than anyone in the majors after the All-Star break last season and haven't come close to that level of production in 2016.
Perhaps the breakout performance they've been waiting for will spark a rash of runs.
That theory will face an immediate test Friday night against Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Kenta Maeda, who will try to bounce back from his first subpar outing in America in his debut north of the border.
The Blue Jays' 5.70 runs per game from mid-July on dwarfed anyone else's production, but that number was at 3.90 – 19th in the majors – heading into Thursday's game against Texas.
Toronto (15-15) cracked double digits 26 times last season but waited until Thursday to do it in 2016. Edwin Encarnacion doubled in three in a five-run first inning and hit a three-run homer to cap a six-run third in the 12-2 rout.
''We've been waiting on that outburst,'' manager John Gibbons said. ''We really did what we do best tonight.''
Getting Encarnacion going would be huge. He came into Wednesday's game hitting .236 but went 5 for 8 with two homers and two doubles in the final two against the Rangers.
''When I have games like today I know my confidence gets up and I know my game is going to step up,'' he said.
The Jays will try to carry Thursday's performance over against Maeda (3-1, 1.41), whose ERA was 0.36 after his first four starts. Venturing outside the NL West for the first time didn't go nearly as well, as the right-hander gave up four runs over 6 2/3 innings April 28 in a 5-3 loss to Miami.
With two off days between then and Friday, the Dodgers (14-14) opted to give Maeda a little extra rest – even if his catcher didn't think he necessarily needed it after the loss to the Marlins.
''He pitched really good,'' Yasmani Grandal said. ''It happens, you know – a little blooper here, a little blooper there, all of a sudden it comes back to bite us. I think he did good. I mean, I guess we'll go ahead the next five days and wait for him to throw again.''
It's an awfully small sample, but opponents already seem to be getting a better read on Maeda after seeing him early. Teams are hitting .145 (12 for 83) off Maeda the first two times through the order and .353 (12 for 34) after that.
He'll be opposed by Marcus Stroman (4-0, 3.77), who's had some interesting home/road splits. All four homers he's allowed have come away from Rogers Centre, though he's only surrendered seven runs for a 2.74 ERA. Stroman has given up 11 runs in 20 innings at home for a 4.95 ERA.
A homer was all the damage he allowed in eight innings on his 25th birthday Sunday at Tampa Bay, though, as Stroman struck out nine in a 5-1 win.
''A special kid,'' Gibbons said. ''He's got so many things that he can attack you with. He was on today.''
The Blue Jays last faced the Dodgers in 2013, a year before Stroman's major league debut, getting swept at Rogers Centre.