Another strong outing on Sunday, this time from Mark Buehrle, would go a long way toward helping Miami break out of its current funk in its final game of Interleague Play. The Blue Jays will send right-hander Jesse Chavez to the mound for his second start of the season, hoping to contain the Marlins' lineup the way Brett Cecil and Toronto's bullpen did Saturday.
Both pitchers are coming off rough outings. Buehrle gave up a season-high six earned runs on three homers -- one more than he allowed in the entire month of May -- on Tuesday at Fenway Park. The southpaw gave up seven hits and only recorded one strikeout in five innings, tied for his shortest outing of the season, and extended his season-long losing streak to four games.
"I felt good. I felt like stuff was working. Just when I made a mistake, they made me pay for it," Buehrle said. "In key moments, it was either make a good pitch and they hit it, or make a mistake and then pay for it."
Chavez didn't fare much better his last time out. He started out well, retiring seven of the first eight Brewers he faced Tuesday. But he struggled to throw strikes in his third inning, and Milwaukee touched him up to the tune of four runs on three hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell noted that Chavez grew too timid as the night went on.
"Yeah, he did. Just having a chance to talk with him a little bit more over the last couple of days, just want him to know that he's going to get the ball and not to think that he's got to be perfect," Farrell said. "He walked out there for the first two innings and took control of the game, and all of a sudden started to pitch a little bit fine. But I think there's more room here to challenge some guys to the straight-away part of the ballpark."
Blue Jays: Davis stepping up
Given another chance to seize a starting job when the Blue Jays optioned Eric Thames on May 29, Rajai Davis has done everything the club could ask of him. After going 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI, the 31-year-old outfielder has hit .309 with seven walks, two doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs since taking over in left field.
Davis had a disappointing 2011, hitting .238 with a .273 on-base percentage, and his average was down to .220 before May 29. But he's since boosted that number to .276 on the year, while earning plenty of praise from Farrell.
"Davis quietly goes along putting up a solid year and has been a force in a number of ways for us," Farrell said. "I think we're seeing the hitter that he was for two years in Oakland prior to coming here. I can't say that this year is a fluke by any means."
Farrell offered his thoughts on the new Marlins Park, contrasting it with Milwaukee's Miller Park, where the Blue Jays played before heading to Miami.
"This one is much more pitcher-friendly. I thought the ball jumped down the left-field line [Friday] night a few times. But you've got a lot more room out there," he said. "This is a more forgiving ballpark, and the conditions we had in Milwaukee -- mid-90s, the wind was blowing out -- it seemed like Las Vegas."
Marlins: Ruggiano making most of playing time
Justin Ruggiano has been seeing more time on the field lately, especially against left-handed starters, and he showed why Saturday, going 2-for-4 with the Marlins' only run and making a tremendous diving catch in center field. Manager Ozzie Guillen praised the 30-year-old outfielder, who had spent the majority of his career in the Rays' Minor League system.
"He gives you great at-bats," Guillen said. "He fights for his at-bats every time we give him an opportunity. ... As long as you do that, you will play for me, no doubt. I don't care if you're 0-for-4. As long as you fight for your at-bats and your situation, you have a great chance of playing for me."
Right-handed relievers Steve Cishek and Edward Mujica allowed a combined six runs in the ninth inning Saturday. Since May 10, the Marlins' bullpen owns an ERA of 5.93 (79 earned runs in 120 innings).
Blue Jays reliever Sergio Santos, out since April 21 due to inflammation in his right shoulder, has begun a throwing program, but Farrell said there is no timetable for him to return to the club.
The Marlins have 21 comeback wins on the year, but none since June 2, a 5-4 victory over the Phillies.