Jays hope to take another step in recovery vs. Mariners

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are showing signs that they could be ready to take a run at a .500 record.

They can ask the Seattle Mariners that the break-even point can be elusive.

The Blue Jays assured themselves of at least a split in their four-game series with the Mariners with a 4-0 win on Friday night.

They appear to be in a good position for the third game Saturday afternoon when they send out Marcus Stroman (3-2, 3.38 ERA) likely against Ryan Weber (season debut), who has been pitching at Triple-A Tacoma.

The Blue Jays (15-21) have won three games in a row for the first time this season and are closing in on .500 after a 2-11 start. They have won nine of their past 13 games.

“Things are starting to go our way,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We’re starting to get some big hits, which we weren’t earlier in the year. Balls are starting to leave the ball park. Earlier in the year, they were just going to the warning track. And we’re getting some breaks along the way.”

Gibbons said the team did not have a confidence problem.

“It was never a lack of confidence,” he said. “But through a tough stretch, everybody starts pressing.”

There is still a long way for the Blue Jays to go before they overcome the damage of a poor start.

Bautista, who hit a three-run homer against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, hit a two-run shot against the Mariners on Friday. He now has four homers this season and two in his past three games.

“We all believed it was just a matter of time,” Gibbons said. “Nobody ever knows what sets a guy off in the right direction. It could be a little bloop hit, it could be a walk. But something clicks inside and for some reason their timing lines up right.”

The Mariners (17-19) went to Philadelphia and outscored the Phillies 21-15 to take a two-game set and reach .500 at 17-17 for the first time this season. After the first two games in Toronto, the Mariners are two games below .500.

They have not scored against the Blue Jays since Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer in the first inning Thursday, a game the Blue Jays won 7-2.

“As hot as we were with the bat in Philadelphia,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said, “we were just as cold here in Toronto. It happens. It goes back and forth a little bit.”

The Mariners also played the first two games without second baseman Robinson Cano, who has a strained right quadriceps. There is no guarantee that Cano, who has been hot with the bat, will be able to play Saturday.

“There’s an effect to what he means to our team and on the field,” Servais said. “That’s part of it. You’ve got to keep playing. You’ve got to keep grinding.”

Stroman will be trying for his second straight win on Saturday when he faces the Mariners for the first time in his career.

Stroman pitched six scoreless innings, holding the Indians to six hits and two walks on Monday. He had only one strikeout but did induce three double-play grounders. Some of his outs were hard hit and center fielder Kevin Pillar saved him some runs when he made a diving catch on a ball over his head to end the sixth.

Ryan Weber is expected to make the start for the Mariners, although it had not been listed officially. A roster move will be necessary because Weber has been pitching all season at Triple-A Tacoma, where he is 2-0 with a 0.85 ERA in six games (five starts). It would be his first major-league outing of the season. He is 1-4 with a 5.15 ERA in 21 major-league games (seven starts), all with Atlanta. He has never faced the Blue Jays. The Mariners claimed Weber off waivers in November.