|Blue Jays attempt to regroup vs. Rangers|
TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays have finished a seven-game stretch against two tough American League East rivals and now they take on a rival of two recent postseasons in the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
The Blue Jays finished 2-5 in dropping consecutive series to the New York Yankees (four games on the road) and the Boston Red Sox. All three games against the Red Sox at the Rogers Centre were decided by one run, including a 5-4 loss in the rubber match Thursday night. The Blue Jays won the opener 4-3 in 10 innings Tuesday.
"We battled," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Those games are tough. If you're going to do anything, you've got to beat top teams, I think we can do that, we just need to tighten some things up, get the starting rotation on a roll. We're killing our bullpen right now, that's for sure. That can't hold up."
The Blue Jays (14-10), who defeated the Rangers in the AL Division Series in 2015 and 2016, won two of three in against Texas this season at Arlington from April 6-8.
Texas (9-17) had the day off in the schedule Thursday after defeating the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Wednesday to finish a homestand 2-4.
The Rangers have third baseman Adrian Beltre (strained left hamstring), shortstop Elvis Andrus (fractured right elbow) and second baseman Rougned Odor (strained left hamstring) on the disabled list.
"It's a matter of us just playing within ourselves and being as smart as possible," said Texas left-hander Cole Hamels, who is not scheduled to start in Toronto. "Sometimes you have the freak injuries. Injuries happen. They're part of the game. Unfortunately, we've had our fair share."
The Rangers' bullpen has struggled recently.
The relievers allowed 19 runs (18 earned) over the first five games of their homestand before recording 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Wednesday's victory.
The day off Thursday should help a bullpen that is tied for second in the American League in innings pitched.
"I think so," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "The ability to get those guys out there and off the field in positive situations, I believe goes a long way to getting them back on track physically and mentally."
Texas will start left-hander Mike Minor (1-1, 3.86 ERA) against Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman (0-2, 8.55 in the opener at the Rogers Centre.
Minor will be making his fifth start of the season. He has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his four starts.
He has faced the Blue Jays once this season and earned the win when he allowed one run, two hits and two walks while striking out seven in six innings at Arlington on April 7. The only run he allowed was on a home run by Steve Pearce.
Minor is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five career games (three starts) against the Blue Jays. He earned a save on Sept. 21 against Toronto in his only appearances at the Rogers Centre. He is in his first season with the Rangers after signing a three-year contract in December.
Stroman is 1-2 with a 6.89 in three career starts against Texas. In the 2015 postseason, he was 0-0 with a 3.46 ERA against the Rangers.
Stroman will be making his fifth start of the season. He was late beginning spring training because of inflammation in his shoulder and is still trying to find his form. He has retired only one hitter after the fifth inning in four starts and his walk rate has soared to 6.3 per nine innings.
One positive development for the Blue Jays on Thursday was the homer and triple hit by second baseman Devon Travis. Both were firsts this season for Travis, who is batting .155 despite going 2-for-4 on Thursday.