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Brian Giles and a bunch of average to below average hitters is what Cory Lidle will have to contend with tonight. Mr. Lidle is making his second consecutive start on 5 days' rest. Perhaps his sub-par performance against the potent Cardinals had as much to do with this extra day of rest as it did with the quality of opposition - perhaps not.

Josh Phelps is most probably chomping at the bit to get regular at-bats.
In a very interesting article that I'm sure has no connection to his new Big Book of Baseball Lineups, :-), Rob Neyer has put together an all-time Blue Jays lineup that's sure to generate some discussion. Here it is:
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The Jays' starting rotation, be it five-man or four-man, figures to see major changes in the immediate future, says the Toronto Sun. Halladay is confirmed as the ace, Lidle will provide useful innings, and Escobar will be in the rotation until he's dealt or his arm falls off. But Mark Hendrickson has been getting lit up lately (13 runs in his last 2 starts, 29 hits in his last 18 IP), and Doug Davis has been tentative and has gone 6 innings just once since his wins over Anaheim. Tanyon Sturtze apparently isn't going to a second chance as a starter, so Corey Thurman's name is now bring floated as the next candidate.

Those who read my dispatch from Thurman's last AAA start know that I came away less than impressed, but in truth, his mediocre start against the Lynx broke a string of solid outings throughout mid-May and June. Is he ready for the big leagues? I think he's about as ready now as he would be in August, but not as ready as he'd be next April. But Toronto needs starting help now, and Corey's education can continue at the major-league level without too much disruption. If he comes up now, don't expect miracles -- but do expect to see a better pitcher than either of the two lefties he could displace.
Tomorrow morning, I'll be posting the much-anticipated transcript of our Friday interview with Blue Jays Consultant (Baseball Operations) Keith Law. Kent and I peppered Keith with questions on a wide range of issues, including the team's remarkable run of success in May, the organization's top prospects (and top sleepers) in the minors, and what it's like to work for JP Ricciardi. I was surprised to hear Keith's take on sudden AA sensation Simon Pond, and intrigued to hear the truth about the rumours that JP told scouts not to bother to look at high school pitchers before the draft. I think you will be, too. Drop by tomorrow morning for the complete word from Keith Law, exclusively at Batter's Box.
Division Leaders:
 team .................. G  W  L  GB  (week) R-RA
1. Seattle Mariners.... 61 42 19 0.0 (5-1) 38-10
T2. Minnesota Twins..... 61 35 26 7.0 (4-2) 31-26
T2. Boston Red Sox...... 61 35 26 7.0 (4-2) 46-32


Wildcard:
 team .................. G  W  L  GB  (week) R-RA
1. New York Yankees..... 62 35 27 0.0 (2-4) 29-28
2. Oakland Athletics.... 61 34 27 0.5 (2-4) 19-39
3. Toronto Blue Jays.... 64 34 30 2.0 (2-4) 37-43
4. Anaheim Angels....... 60 31 29 3.0 (4-2) 51-25
5. Kansas City Royals... 60 30 30 4.0 (3-3) 36-34


Projected Playoff Matchups: Seattle vs New York; Minnesota vs Boston




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Huge primates are much more agile than enormous sea mammals. My Toronto Walrus edged the Sub-Urban Shockers 10-2 last week, and when I checked the standings this morning, I expected to be within seven or eight games of first place. Incredibly, I lost ground on the leader, as the mighty Gashouse Gorillas, led by Snellville Jones and the ghost of Pepper Martin, laid a 10-1 whupping on the Moscow Rats.

Baird Brain, AGF, Billies Bashers and (here come the Welshmen) Mebion Glyndwr would round out the qualifiers for the championship round of the playoffs if the season ended today. It doesn't, of course, and in head-to-head, amazing turnarounds are commonplace. Jonny German, who does a great job compiling our unofficial Roto stats each week, climbed from 18th place up to 14th with an old-fashioned K-Town Mashing (10-2) of the Eastern Shore Birds, and a run of two or three big wins can vault any team into serious contention. The first-round byes for finishing first or second are a nice reward, but as long as you finish in the top six, the regular season standings don't mean much in the quest for the Grail, I mean T-shirt.
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According to mlb.com, Carlos Delgado is now first in All-Star voting among AL first basemen, having just passed Jason Giambi.

Details are here.
I spent the weekend watching the Mariners play like, well, the Mariners, and I also had a brief glimpse of the Roger Clemens/Kerry Wood match-up Saturday. All I can say about Clemens being denied his 300th is this pulchritudinous platitude: Boo-hoo
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The Jays try to shake off last night's disappointment this afternoon, while the Reds will be fired up from their latest miraculous comeback. Cincinnati starter Jimmy Haynes isn't quite as bad as his 0-4, 9.42 suggests -- since returning from the DL May 27, he's got two no-decisions, allowing two runs in five innings at Atlanta, and holding the Yankees to three runs in six innings at the Smallpark. Still, you have to expect the Toronto bats to do some damage, as usual. Cat, Delgado and Myers have all had success against Haynes in the past.

Kelvim Escobar was superb through four innings in his last start, allowing a fluke infield single and no walks while striking out five. Then, in the fifth, he started shaking his right hand while pacing nervously around the mound between pitches, and (not being very patient with Kelvim) I thought, "oh, boy, here we go again." Sure enough, he coughed up the 2-run lead his mates had given him against Card's ace Matt Morris, and he was gone after six, taking the loss. What I didn't know is that Escobar's hand wasn't numb because of the (possibly psychosomatic) nerve problem that bothered him in his last stint in the rotation. After the game, he explained -- when batting in the top of the fifth, he got jammed fouling off a Morris fastball, and it really stung.
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If it isn't postponed because of rain, like the games in Philly and New York, the Jays will send occasional starter Doug Davis to the hill against the Reds, who are desperate to get a good start from anyone. Tonight it's B.C.'s own Ryan Dempster, who is going to be activated from the DL. There was some talk of sending the slumping Felipe Lopez down, but I believe they decided to give up on Joey Hamilton instead.

The Toronto hitters, particularly the 2-3-4 men, had a great night in the series opener, and their production should continue, but it's hard to imagine Davis shutting down the Cincinnati bats like Doc did last night. If they do get to play, this could be a high-scoring affair. There are a couple of televised distractions this evening, like Funny Cide attempting to win the Triple Crown less than an hour from now, and the Devils trying to hoist Lord Stanley's mug in Anaheim. We have friends visiting, so I won't be providing a play-by-play, and may not see much of the ball game.

It's off topic, but did you see what Joe Torre did to Roger Clemens this afternoon? Seventh inning, leading 1-0 on a three-hitter and having thrown just 84 pitches after a bleeder single by Sosa and a walk to Alou on some very close calls, Rocket Man got the hook! Juan Acevedo promptly served up a three-run jack to Eric Karros on the very first pitch. Unbelievable; when a guy's going for his 300th win, don't you let him get out of his own minor jams? I keep hearing Elton John in my head: And I think it's going to be a long, long time...
Apologies for the belated Advance Scout entry. As Coach so ably predicted, the Jays' bats returned with a vengeance in Friday night's opener at Great American Ball Park. Toronto's hitting can only be contained by an excellent starter, and at least in the rotation, Cincinnati has nothing resembling an excellent starter.

The Reds can mash, especially at home, and can catch the ball. But a weak-hitting bottom of the order and dreadful pitching except for the three relievers at the back end of the bullpen make for a sub-.500 club. Much has been written of how lucky they've seemed to be, given the respectability of their record relative to their awful run differential; the Jays would do well to jump on Dempster and Haynes early to avoid the late-inning magic that Cincinnati's been able to conjure up this season with surprising regularity.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Your humble correspondent, fresh off a scintillating e-mail interview with Keith Law and Coach (look for the full text here at Da Box on Tuesday), had the good fortune to attend an Ottawa Lynx game Frday night in the company of both the Syracuse Skychiefs and, far better, his wife (or "Mrs. Beeah Guy," as she's sometimes known). Here's my report on the evening's festivities.
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Don't expect the Jays to go hitless for seven innings tonight. Cincinnati righty John Riedling, in three previous starts (and seven relief appearances) in the Great American Bandbox, has held opponents to a .325 AVG, walking 11 and striking out 8 en route to a 6.75 ERA. A fired-up group of Blue Jays, still annoyed at being victimized by an inept umpiring crew last night, will be ready to take advantage of his generosity. It's the regular cast for Toronto, except for very capable subs Reed Johnson and Dave Berg.

Roy Halladay gets to play stopper, and with a W beside his name in his last seven starts, I like his chances. Ken Griffey Jr. and F-Lop are not in the Reds lineup, and Adam "All or Nothing" Dunn is the unconventional leadoff man, with a .205 AVG, .318 OBP and more homers than singles -- a #6 profile if you ask me, which Bob Boone rarely does.

Our Advance Scout ran into some technical difficulties today, but Mike D. will fill you in on the Ohio perspective tomorrow. Spot starter Davis faces Dempster Saturday night, and Escobar takes on Haynes in the Sunday matinee. I correctly predicted 50+ runs in the Jays-Rangers series a while back, but I'll put the over-under at a mere 42 this weekend, because I expect Doc and Kelvim to keep the Reds somewhat under control. It's a good chance for the Jays to forget the St. Louis nightmare before returning home.
In a bold move, the Yankees today acquired Ruben Sierra to, in ESPN.com's words, "help the outfield." Though it only cost them Marcus Thames, the only team Sierra is going to help is Texas, where Buck Showalter no longer has the "temptation" to play Sierra over Mark Texeira, Carl Everett or other deserving hitters. A low-risk move by the Yanks, but nonetheless a puzzling one. Rob Neyer breaks it down; follow the link. A BB regular and Coach disciple, who goes by the moniker of "A," claims in an earlier thread that Sierra could have aided the Jays because he's cheap. I respectfully disagree; Reed Johnson is a better fit, and he's even cheaper.
For those interested, analyst and author Joe Sheehan (most recently of Baseball Prospectus) will be on the Fan 590 tomorrow (Saturday) at 3:15PM EDT. Webcast devotees can catch the interview here.