The Toronto Blue Jays are on the verge of their longest winning streak in nearly five years - with a big thanks owed to their starting pitching.
Esmil Rogers hopes to give them another strong start in his first chance to face the team with which he broke into the majors as Toronto hosts the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays (33-36) claimed their sixth straight win and ninth in 11 games Monday night with a 2-0 victory over the Rockies (37-34). Toronto hasn't had a longer win streak since a 10-game run from Aug. 30-Sept. 9, 2008.
Josh Johnson went 7 1-3 innings and struck out 10 - his most since 2010 - as the latest in a series of strong showings from Toronto's rotation. Blue Jays starters own a 2.32 ERA over the past 12 games, including an 0.53 mark in the last five while going 4-0.
That five-game stretch began with Rogers (2-2, 3.21 ERA) throwing seven innings of one-run ball while yielding five hits and one walk in a 3-1 victory at Texas on Thursday.
"He was tremendous, he really was," manager John Gibbons said. "You could kind of see that building. He's really taken to it."
The only longer start he's had came for Colorado in 2011, two years after he made his major league debut with the Rockies. Rogers pitched 70 games for them before being traded to Cleveland last June.
The former reliever was thrown into Toronto's rotation as injuries piled up. His performance thus far - 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA over three starts since May 29 - might see him stick around longer than expected.
Rogers told the team's official website he started to use his sinker much more Thursday, and the results showed. He struck out only one batter after fanning 10 over his other two starts spanning 7 1-3 innings, but also induced 14 groundballs compared to seven flyballs.
The Rockies, who have lost four of six, hope Jeff Francis (2-4, 5.87) can lead them to a victory in the Vancouver native's second career start in Canada.
While with Kansas City, he yielded two runs over six innings in a 9-6 win at Toronto on Aug. 25, 2011. Francis has won all three starts he's made against the Blue Jays, posting a 2.37 ERA.
"Any time I get to face a team where it's on TV across the country and they can watch, it's fun," Francis told the team's official website. "You want to have a good game every time, but sometimes it's a little extra special."
Francis struck out a season-high eight against Washington on Thursday, not getting a decision as he allowed two runs across six innings in a 5-4 defeat. Colorado has lost six of his last seven starts.
Rajai Davis, who singled and scored on Maicer Izturis' two-run single in the eighth inning Monday, is 5 for 10 versus Francis. Edwin Encarnacion is 2 for 13 against him.
Colorado's Michael Cuddyer has hit safely in 15 straight games.
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