Tough trip awaits Blue Jays

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 PM ET

The Blue Jays are going from a disappointing home stand to, perhaps, its most difficult road trip of the season.

It begins today with a visit to the American League champions who pounded the Royals 8-7 Sunday to run their home record to 10-2. Good thing they have cooled down a bit since a torrid start or this could turn very ugly, very fast.

The Rangers have bullied the AL East, running off six wins and Toronto has to face them four times; then off to New York for three, and finally, to Tampa, which handcuffed them with their pitching this weekend.

Toronto's best chance to steal a game might be the series opener against Colby Lewis. He was a jewel last year after returning from Japan but now has a 5.82 ERA and word is, after averaging more than 90 m.p.h. on his fastball last season, that he's down to 87 or 88 m.p.h.. Toronto also catches a break with the Rangers placing closer Neftali Feliz on the 15-day disabled list because of right shoulder inflammation.

"We've got no bona fide closer right now," manager Ron Washington said. "It's that simple."

Feliz has five saves in five chances this season and an 1.08 ERA in eight appearances. Last season, Feliz set a major-league rookie record with 40 saves.

Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes, who have a combined 37 saves in 1,458 major-league appearances, are filling in.

"I'm going with the guys that are hot," Washington said. That includes Matt Harrison, who pitches Tuesday and is holding hitters to a .184 average. Mike Young is among the league elite batting .356, and home runs by Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre and Andres Blanco Sunday gave them a sweep of the Royals.

For Napoli, traded by Toronto for reliever Frank Francisco, it was his fifth homer of the year. The homer for Beltre was his seventh, tying him with Jose Bautista.


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