Twins-Blue Jays Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays ended their losing streak Friday while

extending the Minnesota Twins’ slide.

Considering Toronto will start R.A. Dickey – who seems to have

discovered a groove recently – the Twins’ woes could very well

continue Saturday at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays (42-44) ended their three-game slide with a 4-0

win over the Twins (36-47), who lost their sixth straight.

Toronto’s starters had struggled during the club’s previous three

games, combining to allow 19 runs and 26 hits in only 11 2-3

innings.

But Mark Buehrle gave them seven strong innings Friday, a trend

the Blue Jays hope continues Saturday with Dickey (8-8, 4.59 ERA).

He’s won three of his last four starts with the last two being

particularly impressive. After a two-hit shutout of Tampa Bay on

June 26, he followed that with seven innings of two-run ball

against Detroit in an 8-3 win Monday.

“Just another great outing,” manager John Gibbons said. “Second

one in a row. I see more bite on his knuckleball than we’ve seen in

the past a little bit.”

The 38-year-old pitched through some back and neck issues

earlier this year, but is healthier now, and it seems to be showing

with better velocity. Dickey said he hit season highs on the radar

gun with both his fastball and knuckleball versus the Tigers.

He also walked a total of two batters in his last two starts

after entering the first with a walk rate of 2.67 per nine

innings.

“It’s been kind of a tough go getting it back,” Dickey said of

his velocity. “You can get away with a lot more mistakes when the

velocity’s up there.”

Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes continued hot stretches Friday,

each going 3 for 4 and driving in two runs. Bautista hit his 20th

homer and is 13 for 25 with four home runs and seven RBIs over his

last seven games. Reyes was hitless in his first two games after

returning from a sprained ankle June 26, but has since gone 13 for

36 with eight runs during an eight-game hitting streak.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s pitching staff continues to struggle,

posting a 6.79 ERA during the six-game skid. Mike Pelfrey (3-6,

6.11) will try to give the Twins a lift Saturday as he makes his

first start since June 18. Pelfrey, who was out with a strained

back, went 0-3 over his last eight starts, throwing more than six

innings only twice. He gave up a season-high 10 hits and four runs

over six innings his last time out, a 7-5 win over the White

Sox.

The Twins are also failing to come through with runners in

scoring position, going 6 for 38 (.158) over the last five contests

compared to a .253 mark on the season.

Canada native Justin Morneau, who homered twice in Minnesota’s

loss to the Yankees on Thursday, was 0 for 4 Friday. He’s batting

.198 in 24 career games in Toronto, including a current 1-for-14

slump. The slugger is also 0 for 4 off Dickey.

Dickey hasn’t faced the Twins since 2008 when he made three

relief appearances and one start.

The Twins have lost 17 of 23 to Toronto, including eight of nine

at Rogers Centre.