Blue Jays-Braves Preview
Although the Toronto Blue Jays' potent offense hadn't been faring too well in NL parks, it's coming off its most productive performance yet.
The AL East-leading Blue Jays try to finish their road interleague schedule at .500 by again teeing off on the lowly Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.
Toronto (83-62) leads the division by three games over New York, and much of the credit goes to an offense leading the majors with 5.5 runs per game and 204 homers.
The Blue Jays, however, might be in a more comfortable position if not for going 4-5 on the road during interleague play - and the problem there has been the offense.
The bats have mustered a .232 average with 11 homers while averaging 4.8 runs in those games, a stark contrast to hitting .297 with 18 homers and 6.2 runs per contest while winning seven of 10 at home against NL opponents.
The offense came through Wednesday with half of its 12 hits going for extra bases in a 9-1 win at Atlanta (57-89). Toronto totaled two runs and nine hits while losing the previous two games.
"It's the best offense in all of baseball," said left-hander David Price, who earned the win and moved to 7-1 with Toronto since being acquired in a trade with Detroit.
Having Edwin Encarnacion healthy is a big plus. He had three hits and two walks after missing two games with a sore left middle finger. He's 9 for 17 with two homers and five RBIs in his last five games.
Encarnacion's next RBI will give him 100 this season, joining Josh Donaldson (119) and Jose Bautista (102) at the century mark. They would be the fourth Blue Jays trio to do it and first since Carlos Delgado (137), Tony Batista (114) and Brad Fullmer (104) in 2000.
Toronto hands the ball to Marco Estrada (12-8, 3.31 ERA), who is 2-0 with 16 strikeouts in 16 2-3 scoreless innings over his last five meetings with Atlanta, including two starts. He tossed 1 1-3 innings of relief against the Braves in a 5-2 win April 19.
Estrada wasn't very sharp Saturday, giving up four runs and a season-high three homers in five innings of a 9-5 win in 11 over the Yankees before Toronto swept the doubleheader with a 10-7 victory in the second game. The right-hander was 5-2 with a 2.42 ERA over his previous eight starts.
The Braves have lost 25 of their last 29 games, including 13 of 15 at home.
They're hoping Matt Wisler (5-7, 5.60) can build on his performance from Friday's 5-1 loss to the Mets. The rookie right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings. His aggressiveness carried over from a surprise relief outing at Washington five days earlier in which he tossed two hitless innings in an 8-4 loss.
That appearance was designed to help Wisler snap out of his funk, which included going 0-5 with a 9.49 ERA over his seven previous starts.
"I've got a lot to work on, there was still a lot of guys on base, but I felt better out there," Wisler told MLB's official website Friday. "I not only felt better, I felt confident attacking guys the whole game."