OAKLAND -- The Blue Jays' offense is in desperate need of a boost. Knowing that, the team's hitters probably wished they were seeing any opponent other than the A's this weekend.After all, it was just last week in the teams' three-game series at Rogers Centre that Oakland's starting pitchers combined for a 2.70 ERA. Left-hander Travis Blackley and right-hander A.J. Griffin were especially effective, allowing one combined run to the Blue Jays in their outings. A few days after that series, Toronto entered an offensive funk -- after leading the Majors in offense on Saturday, the team has scored just seven runs in the four games since. It appears the injuries to offensive stalwarts Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia and the trades of Travis Snider and Eric Thames have caught up with the lineup, and reinforcements aren't soon in coming. Matchup-wise, the Blue Jays catch a bit of a break in their four-game series in Oakland. They won't face Blackley, who was moved to the bullpen, and they will get to hit against left-hander Tommy Milone, who started for the A's in Toronto's lone win in the series last week. But Blue Jays manager John Farrell isn't taking any one of Oakland's arms, which lead the American League with a 3.46 overall ERA, lightly. He said he hopes the increased familiarity with the A's pitchers will lead to a better offensive performance this time around, while also dispelling the notion that his team will be especially motivated after dropping the series last week.
"You look back at that series, they pitched exceptionally well against us, and they got a very good pitching staff," Farrell said. "We've got to continue to play fundamental baseball and execute in critical times in the game."
Farrell enjoys versatility in bullpen
OAKLAND -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell must feel a little bit like a kid in a candy store.Just a few weeks ago, his bullpen was in questionable shape in the wake of injuries to several regulars and the little confidence that their Minor League replacements were inspiring. But thanks to the acquisitions of Brad Lincoln, Steve Delabar, Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ -- moonlighting as a reliever, at least for now -- as well as the solid performance of lefty callup Aaron Loup, the 'pen is much deeper. Specifically, Farrell is pleased with the flexibility he's gained. Earlier this season, there were only a few relievers that he could really trust late in a close game. Now, his options have multiplied. "I think it's evened out quite a bit, in their capabilities and their experience level and their success at the Major League level," Farrell said before Thursday's series opener against the A's. "So that lends a lot into maybe more of a known commodity of what you're getting in certain situations." The manager specifically pointed to the abilities of right-handers Lincoln and Lyon to go an inning-plus in the seventh or eighth. The flexibility in matching up is greater, too, since the righty Delabar is effective against left-handers, and because Farrell now has enough confidence in the other arms to use lefty setup man Darren Oliver earlier in the game if need be. All in all, it adds up to help the bullpen resembling "more of a unit" in Farrell's eyes, and less of a "two-tiered" system of only being able to use certain pitchers in important situations.
Catcher Jeff Mathis was out of the lineup on Thursday, replaced by Yan Gomes. Farrell said Mathis is fine physically, and that the team is just making sure he continues to get rest since he wasn't used to playing regularly before Arencibia landed on the 15-day disabled list. After he was examined by a doctor earlier this week, first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind received the news on Thursday that nothing is structurally wrong with his back. Lind, who was placed on the 15-day DL on July 30 with mid-back tightness, was cleared to resume rehabilitation activities.
Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.