September baseball means something, and this first series in Toronto will set the tone. Tonight, Glen Perkins (12-3, 3.96 ERA) faces young gun David Purcey (2-5, 5.53 ERA), who struck out a career-high 11 in his last start. Wednesday will be a stiff test for the Twins as they draw strikeout artist A.J. Burnett (16-10, 4.48 ERA). Minnesota will counter with Nick Blackburn (9-8, 3.75 ERA), and then send Kevin Slowey (11-8, 3.70 ERA) to the hill in the series finale Thursday afternoon. His mound opponent will be Jesse Litsch (9-8, 4.01 ERA), who has been up-and-down from the minors this year.
Toronto, as a team, has actually been pretty good this year. They stand at 71-66 right now, and are ahead of last season's pace despite sitting at no. 4 in the American League East behind Tampa Bay, Boston and New York. The problem has been consistent pitching behind Halladay and Burnett. They've gotten good starts from Marcum and earlier this season from Dustin McGowan, but injuries have derailed a fragile situation. There just wasn't a whole lot in the minors to keep the the Toronto in contention.
Series notes: Toronto got OF Vernon Wells back from the disabled list in early August, and he's gone on to punish pitchers since his return to the tune of a .338/.398/.635 hitting line with six homers and 21 RBI in 19 games... 2B Alexi Casilla had never hit more than three home runs in a season during his minor league career, but inexplicably has six in just 290 major-league at bats this year... Justin Morneau is back. After a horrible start to August, he's hit safely in seven of his past eight games (15-for-35, .429 BA, 2 HRs, 9 RBI)... Normally an offensive spark for Toronto, Alex Rios is in a mini-slump lately, hitting just 3-for-19 over the past four games with three strikeouts and zero walks... The Twins will likely see a lot of lefty reliever Scott Downs against Morneau, Mauer and Kubel this series - Downs has given up just one run since July 5, a span of 23 2/3 innings (21 outings)... Last, starter Kevin Slowey has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over his past five starts, going 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 1.000 WHIP in 31 innings. He's also been able to strike out 30 batters over that stretch, including two double-digit strikeout games in the past three.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the game tonight!