The Blue Jays have faced a string of tough pitchers over the past week, and as they try to battle their way out of the bottom of the American League East standings, the next test comes against Mariners lefty Joe Saunders and his ugly road splits.
Saunders is 2-3 with a 5.25 ERA, but 0-3 with a 12.51 ERA on the road. Saunders will look to improve that number on Sunday at Rogers Centre, where the Mariners will attempt to sweep the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays are 10-21 after an 8-1 loss in the second game of the series on Saturday. They're in the middle of a six-game homestand, but have gone just 1-4 so far during that stretch. The going has been rough for a team favored by many to win the division before the season began.
"I've always believed that talk is cheap," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You can talk all you want. There's been plenty of talk going on. I believe it's going to happen. I just try to stay positive with that belief."
After not having been shut out by the Mariners since June 1, 2005 in Seattle, the Blue Jays scored just one run Saturday after being shut out on Friday night. Part of Toronto's offensive woes can be attributed to the tough pitchers they've faced -- Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma -- in recent days.
"When you face the better pitchers and you let them get ahead of you, you're done," Gibbons said. "But I don't see us chasing, necessarily, out of the zone as early and often as we were."
Toronto will have to be disciplined Sunday against Saunders, who is coming off a four-hit complete-game gem against the Orioles his last time out in Seattle.
"That's always significant, because every pitcher says that's their job and that's what we try to do, but it's hard to do," Saunders said of Seattle's first complete game of the season and the seventh of Saunders' career. "You need to have some breaks, get some quick outs, because nowadays, once you hit 100 pitches, it's bullpen ready, here we go. You've got to be efficient and get quick outs. The defense was amazing behind me and we got some clutch hits. It was awesome."
The Mariners have won seven of nine and have now won three consecutive series.
Mariners: Closing time
• Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen has not allowed a run in his past 12 innings (11 games) and has an overall ERA of 0.64 (one run allowed in 14 innings).
• Michael Morse is batting .282 (11-for-39) over his past nine games to raise his batting average to .241.
Blue Jays: Morrow looking for first win
• Toronto will send right-hander Brandon Morrow to the mound on Sunday, as he looks to pitch more than 6 1/3 innings in a game for the first time this year.
Morrow is still winless on the season (0-2, 5.29 ERA) and, though he kept a consistent velocity in his last outing against the Red Sox, has struggled with his command.
Morrow is 3-1 with a 3.04 career ERA against the Mariners.
• Toronto is a season-high 11 games below .500 and entered Saturday a season-high 10 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East.
• Justin Smoak has recorded a hit in four consecutive games for the Mariners, going 6-for-13 in that span.
• Blue Jays' opponents have scored first in 20 of their first 31 games, and Toronto is 4-16 in those contests.