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The last time Roy Halladay faced the Tigers, he spun a closing day masterpiece -- allowing just two hits (and no walks) in eight IP, for a 1-0 win, his 19th of the 2002 season. Doc is 6-1, 1.97 in seven starts against Detroit, but even he needs a little support, so let's hope the slumbering Toronto bats wake up tonight against Adam Bernero. Johnson's in RF, Cat's at DH, Phelps keeps waiting for that Stewart trade.

According to a very interesting Washington Post article, MLB is taking a look at measures to test Dominican prospects for drugs. This follows some shocking and brutal revelations in another recent Post article that Dominican prospects are abusing drugs and supplements intended for veterinary use. At least two young ballplayers, Lino Ortiz and William Felix, have died after taking stimulants, dietary supplements, or steroids intended for horses and other animals.
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Here's an interesting "pinch hit" from one of our regular readers. Gerry takes a lighthearted look at some of the first-half numbers.

Stats, Stats and more Stats

by Gerry McDonald

Some notes from the Jays statistics at ESPN.COM, at the halfway point. Many of these stats will not be surprising to the ZLC, but the degree to which the Jays vary from other teams, in some categories, was surprising to me.
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Mike Ulmer of the Sun takes a look at so-called truisms in baseball. This is an enjoyable holiday read, including sharp contrasts -- the insight of Keith Law is juxtaposed with the "traditional wisdom" of Lloyd McClendon:

"Once you consider the fact everyone hits better with men on base, you find that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter," Law said. "You can go back as far as you want. No player has over the course of any real timespan hit better in the clutch."

"I would disagree with that," McClendon said. "Certain guys who I played with tended to bring their game up when something was on the line. Myself for one. If I played as well all the time as I did in the clutch, I'd have been a hell of a player."

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It's another end of month, so it's time for my favourite self-indulgence: another monthly report card. First, the hitters: there are a couple of poor grades here, but most everybody kicked butt and took names. But you know that already.
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Last night, I said anything less than a sweep in Detroit would be disappointing. A Jays win tonight would hardly be considered a triumph, but another loss would be viewed by some as catastrophic. If that happens, please resist the urge to push the panic button. Remind yourself, it could be worse -- you could be a Twins fan, or an Angels fan. Even a great team goes through stretches of futility, and if the hitters are in a slump, it won't last long. The concern, as always, is the pitching.

Who knows what to expect from Mark Hendrickson? The tallest man ever to hit a big-league homer couldn't be any closer to a demotion. After two pretty good starts against NL clubs, he was hit hard by Baltimore in his latest and knocked out in the third inning. I expect the Tigers to try more bunts tonight, so Lurch may have to help himself with the glove. He won't be alone out there; you can be sure coach Butterfield worked with the infielders today, and Hudson, much quicker than Bordick, is back at 2B.

Rookie Matt Roney has made just two career starts, failing to last four innings either time. He faces what I believe to be the Jays' best lineup -- Josh Phelps is the DH, and Cat's in RF. Sorry, Reed. You'll get your chance to play every day once Stewart is traded.
Park Factors can be calculated in a myriad of ways. The following are general park factors - which measure the overall impact of the parks a team plays in on run scoring.

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What's with these guys? Pete Walker, Eric Hinske, and now Cliff Politte have all let their teammates down this season (and risked their own careers) in stupid displays of machismo. Playing banged up -- nasty-looking eye bruises, a split fingernail, everyday aches and pains due to muscle soreness -- is one thing; peers respect and admire that. Dragging yourself out there to hit with a broken hand or pitch with a rotator cuff injury is another.

From today's story by Mike Rutsey in the Sun:

"I was completely caught off guard on it," Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca said of Politte's shoulder problem. "He, at times, had a little treatment on his triceps but I had no idea anything was going on in his shoulder until the trainer came in this morning and said they were sending him to the doctor (for an MRI test)."

The skipper mentions Lopez, Miller, Acevedo (when he returns from bereavement leave) and Sturtze as his late inning "mix and match" combination. Mike Smith and Jason Kershner have been called up to provide additional bullpen depth.
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With our regular season over at the end of August, the race for playoff spots is heating up. Not at the top, where the first-place Gashouse Gorillas pulled away with a decisive 9-2 victory over the Springfield Isotopes. Falling to twelve games back in second spot is my own Toronto Walrus; more about my nightmare week later, but I was very fortunate to escape with a draw. Billies Bashers solidified their hold on third in the Head-to-Head standings with a 7-4 win over Baird Brain, one of four teams in a scramble for three remaining spots in the championship playoff round. Mebion Glyndwr advanced with an 8-4 victory against the Nation Builders, and Red Mosquitos edged AGF 6-5 to get one game closer to sixth place.

Teams can still make a sudden move in the standings. The Eastern Shore Birds began the week in 15th place, 3.5 games out of a berth in the consolation playoff round. A 10-2 romp over Geoffs Grumpy Group moved the Birds past two rivals and just a half-game away from being one of the twelve who will play in September.
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Just the thing to get the Jays back in the winning groove -- a trip to Detroit. Tonight, Cory Lidle faces that fearsome lineup -- the Tiggers are hitting .225 as a team (20 points worse than anyone else in the majors) and have scored less than half as many runs as the Jays this year. Lidle still must be better than he was against Baltimore last week to earn his 11th win of the season.

Hard-luck southpaw Mike Maroth has a much more difficult assignment. Josh Phelps finally gets to start; so does Dave Berg, as F-Cat and O-Dog get the night off. Reed Johnson moves up to the 2-hole. Chris Woodward is back at short (it was a sore thumb, I'm told, not his shoulder) and Eric Hinske also gets a rest, with Bordick shifting to third. Tosca's got eight righties and a lefty RBI machine in there, plus an absolutely awesome bench.

Tomorrow -- nothing like a Canada Day game in the U.S. -- Mark Hendrickson takes on RH Matt Roney, a 23-year-old making his third career start. That could be the highest-scoring affair of the series. The finale is a classic pitchers' duel; 11-2 Halladay vs. 1-11 Bernero. Anything less than a sweep will be disappointing.
Did you know that the sweep in St. Louis was the only series the Jays have lost in more than five weeks? Toronto has won six series (sweeping four) and split two since being surprised by the White Sox May 21. The rubber match of this set will determine the Pearson Cup result -- the Jays have earned at least a tie -- and the next two series, in Detroit and Baltimore, are winnable.

Each team has had limited exposure to the opposing pitcher. Cabrera and Vidro have fared well against Escobar, but Delgado and Hinske are both just 1-for-6 off Ohka. Last June, Tomo beat the Jays in Montreal, then lost the SkyDome rematch. He's coming off two solid starts against the Pirates, allowing just two earned runs in 12 innings. Kelvim, in three 2002 relief appearances against the Expos, had a win, a loss and a save. Whether he meant to bean Conine or not, he lost concentration (and the game) in the sixth inning of his latest, so his poise and maturity remain questionable. His stuff has been excellent all month, with 34 K and just 7 BB in 34.2 IP -- I like his chances, if he stays calm.

Chris Woodward is still nursing the shoulder he hurt Friday night; Bordick (3-for-3 vs. Ohka) gets another start. Wilson gives Myers a breather. Josh Phelps is now a platoon DH, at least until Cat moves back to left field. I get it; Reed Johnson deserves to be a regular, and they have to prove that Shannon's hamstrings are OK in order to trade him. It's an embarrassment of riches when a guy with 25 HR in 514 career AB, a .353 OBP and .496 SLG wastes away on your bench.
Tim Naehring, who is player development director of the Reds, said that it's not for sure that Jose Rijo is done -- but it sure looks that way.
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An early game thread, as I'm not sure how many of our authors are around on this long weekend, and my family is going to an Internet-free party. Regardless of the outcome of today's potential Pearson Cup-winning matchup, it's been a magnificent first half for the home team. Rookie RH Claudio Vargas, with a stingy 2.73 ERA and coming off a brilliant 3-hit shutout of the Pirates, takes on Doug Davis, who always makes me nervous. The Jays' bats (and their bullpen) will have to be good. It's a 4:05 start on TSN; I'll check in here late tonight to see what I missed.
In the Saturday Star, there's a front page picture of the Blue Jays, 25 head shots. Is it celebrating the club's remarkable turnaround, two years ahead of schedule? Introducing the players to a city that's just waking up to the reality of being in a pennant race? Nope, it's drawing attention to Geoff Baker's feature, headlined "Whitest team in the majors," which occupies a lot of the sports section.

Baker consults an "expert" who points out the large Japanese turnout in Toronto to see Ichiro. Talent has nothing to do with it, I guess; perhaps Hideki Irabu would be a similar draw. Then there's this gem:

Complicating the entire issue of race is the fact the Jays aren't really seeking the best players available, many of whom happen to be non-white. Budget-conscious Toronto instead is looking for value.

Yeah, we all hate value. OK, so J.P. should spend more money, and start considering the "issue" of race, which happens to be irrelevant to his job of building a winner. Why? Isn't what he's accomplished in 18 months good enough?
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It's too bad there's no MVC award for coaches. What kind of year is Blue Jays hitting coach Mike Barnett having? Nearing the halfway point of the 2003 season, his club leads the major leagues in batting average, hits, runs, RBI, on-base percentage, total bases and slugging percentage. Carlos Delgado's amazing season has helped, but everyone in the lineup is contributing.

The common denominator is "Barney," who refuses to take any credit for the results of his diligent efforts. "You can't do what we're doing without good players," he explained in a recent dugout conversation, after guiding his charges through batting practice. "We've got guys who are very talented, very intelligent, and they all have a fantastic work ethic."
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