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Baltimore and Toronto, two teams struggling as they wind down their 2005 seasons, meet for the last time all year as they battle for third-place in the AL East. Toronto is struggling with the bats, scoring two runs combined in their last two games against the hapless Devil Rays and Seth McClung and Scott Kazmir. Baltimore turned in a good performance against Boston on Friday and promptly lost the next two. It won’t be easy for Toronto as they face three of the tougher pitchers on the Orioles staff, but Toronto also sends out Gustavo Chacin, who is looking to solidify a Rookie of the Year campaign, and Ted Lilly, who looks to have a good few starts after returning from injury and set up his 2006 season well. Dustin McGowan is the scheduled starter Thursday, but with Lilly’s return that could change.

This week's Scout features 2003’s streakiest hitter, two pitchers who really struggle against lefties and a reliever who was hurling in the Independent Leagues in 2003. Mike D. will return next series.

On to the Advance Scout!

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After blowing sizeable leads on three consecutive evenings, Tampa Bay tries to do what it does best: Annoy the Jays and their fans.

Toronto's had a slightly easier time playing the D-Rays this season as opposed to other recent years, but the post-break series in which Tampa snagged three of four was crippling to the Blue Jays. T-Bay has actually been a very competitive club over the second half of the season, as they've been swinging hot bats and getting serviceable pitching. This should be an interesting series, with all three Jays hurlers throwing the ball quite well of late.

This week's Scout features a couple of old friends, a couple of new faces and a player who is the best in baseball history at his position -- seriously! -- according to at least one statistic. Stay tuned on Monday as Thomas clears the Ayers in a pinch-hit Orioles Advance Scout. And read on for another Trivia Challenge!

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays face the only team with a more disappointing last two weeks, as the weary and demoralized Baltimoreans come to town for a three-game set that was, at one time, shaping up to be a meaningful pennant-race series. After being swept by the A's in a four-game set at Camden Yards, Baltimore is simply hoping for a return to normalcy and an escape from the controversy that has surrounded this club without any real respite since Jose Canseco named three players in the Orioles' spring training camp in his book.

This is not, however, going to be easy for the Jays. Rodrigo Lopez was brilliant in his last start, and 21-year-old Hayden Penn, who was nearly traded away mid-season, hopes to give Baltimore and its loyal fans some optimism with a strong start on Thursday, when rosters expand.

This week's Scout features an impending end to a streak, an ex-MVP candidate and a troubled pitcher with a troubling amount of money still guaranteed by Baltimore.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The disappointing news about Roy Halladay's fracture casts a cloud over the otherwise excellent news that the Jays are finally home again. If I'm in the Jays front office, I'm using all the influence I have this off-season to lobby against a 13-game Baltimore-Anaheim-Detroit-New York trip in August.

Don't expect any sympathy from the visitors from Cleveland; they're locked in a virtual three-way tie for the lead in the wild card chase, and are red-hot of late. Although a successful weekend will sadly benefit the Yankees more than anybody else, it'll still do the young Jays some good to get back on track after playing a somewhat lower quality of baseball over their last seven games.

This week's Scout features a surprising shortstop, some front-office AL Central gamesmanship and a lefty that hasn't been quite as deceptive as he'd like to be. Plus, another Trivia Challenge!

On to the Advance Scout!
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Technical difficulties have gobbled up the Advance Scout report for the Yankees series. Sincere apologies, folks.

Here's the chart breaking down the matchups for this crucial four-game set.

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The Fighting Jays head to Detroit to take on a team that themselves have shown considerable fight of late, taking two of three from mighty Boston after sweeping a doubleheader with the Royals. The Jays will have to pitch well to win this series.

Detroit's team, with so-so pitching and lefty-mashing hitting, continues to receive improved support from their realistic, but increasingly impatient, fans. The leap from awful to average sufficed last year; next year, Detroit's finicky fandom won't accept another average squad.

This week's (somewhat brief) Scout features a spate of injuries, a Johnny Mac sighting and a future Hall of Famer who may be wearing out his welcome.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays hope to continue their solid play in Anaheim, where they face a club clinging to a one-game lead in the AL West. Winning the series -- as the Jays did against the Halos, back in the Rogers Centre in July -- could prove to be a tall order.

Then again, the Jays manage to avoid the Angels' two primary workhorses, and they throw two lefties at a club that sometimes struggles with southpaws. Both teams like to throw strikes and flash the should be an entertaining series.

This week's Scout features an old-school starter, a white-hot Vlad and an old friend that might be returning to an old role. Plus, a couple of Molinas(!) and a Trivia Challenge!

On to the Advance Scout!
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It's do-or-die time for the ornithologically inclined AL East rivals this weekend. Thanks largely to a visit from Tampa Bay, the Orioles have slowed their spiral into oblivion -- at least momentarily.

The O's have been suffering from some awful outings from their starting rotation and some prolonged slumps from their batting order. That's the good news for the Jays. The bad news is, this remains a club that can score runs in bunches -- and a club frankly due for some breaks. Read on for details.

This week's Scout features a season debut on Saturday, a left-on-base bonanza and a GM team that may shrink in size -- from two to zero -- unless the club continues to rebound. Oh yeah, and some guy named Palmeiro should be playing first tonight.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays try to rebound against the visiting Motor City Kitties, who are just 2-8 in their last ten outings. The Jays' depleted rotation caught -- no pun intended -- a major break, though, when Ivan Rodriguez announced that he would drop his appeal and serve his four-game suspension over the entirety of the series at the Rogers Centre.

Detroit is in the middle of the pack in most team categories, and Toronto needs to show an ability to take care of business against a struggling squad at home. The toughest matchup for the home team will be on Thursday afternoon, which looks like the Downs-Walker Connection against the talented (and still only 22) Jeremy Bonderman.

This week's Scout features a struggling lefty, a surprising old friend and a huge collective sigh of relief over the status of a top prospect. And by the way, big thanks to Lucas, Rob and Pepper for filling in while I was on vacation!

On to the Advance Scout!
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This is the series many of us have been waiting for!
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The White Sox host the Jays having won four in a row (sweep of the O's). They easily sit atop the former Comedy Central division, thanks to great pitching, even better defense, and a 32-9 (!) record against their divisional "rivals." I use the pithy quotation marks because no division has a bigger gap between first and second place than the AL Central's 15 games.

Chicago is also 33-19 at whatever they call their stadium now, while Toronto is 23-29 on the road. The White Sox have been in first place in the AL Central all 121 days of the season and it doesn't look good for the Blue Jays, but this is why they play the games.

On to the Advance Scout!

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Toronto welcomes the homer-happy Rangers for the first time this season. The Jays are simultaneously high and tired after their 18-inning victory and sweep over the West-leading Angels. Meanwhile, the Rangers took three of four in Baltimore, almost mitigating a disastrous four-game sweep at home by Oakland. The Rangers appreciate the Jays for their efforts, but they will try to douse Toronto’s giddiness over the weekend. The team that sweeps this series can reclaim vital ground in the race for the wildcard or division lead.

On to the Advance Scout!

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Only 4.5 games separate the Jays from the postseason, but seemingly the whole league blocks their path. They must surpass Boston, New York and Baltimore to win the East, or they must vanquish Oakland, Minnesota, and several others to gain a wildcard berth. Today, they play unwilling host to the West-leading Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). LA has the third-best record in baseball and a daunting 29-18 road record. LA features an unexceptional but aggressive and entertaining offense, a solid rotation, and an outstanding bullpen. Taking two of three from them would be quite an accomplishment.

Let the scouting commence!

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The Jays try to build on their momentum from a fine series against Seattle as they travel to the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex for a weekend showdown with the Royals. The Royals feature an impatient lineup, but two of their three starting pitchers are coming off dominant performances and there are some lively arms in the 'pen. It should make for some interesting baseball, and Lilly vs. Greinke could be a nice matchup on Sunday.

This will be my last Advance Scout column for a little while, as I head off on vacation. But fear not, Bauxites -- Lucas, Rob and Pepper Moffatt will all contribute pinch-hit Scout reports with their usual aplomb over the next four series. It won't skip a beat.

Today's Scout features a brawlin' (but appealin') righty, a proud papa and a young ace starting to trust his stuff again.

On to the Advance Scout!
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After the weekend debacle against the struggling Devil Rays, Toronto welcomes the not-so-struggling crew from Seattle, which is making the trek out east for a three-game set. Note that Thursday afternoon is a 12:30 pm matinee.

The Mariners' offseason spending spree, as many predicted, was not sufficient to vault the club into contention in the tough AL West (although few would have predicted the total regression of Adrian Beltre). The M's are pretty good defensively and have an outstanding bullpen, but their starters have been shaky and the lineup isn't deep. It's an opportunity for the Jays to get on track, so long as they take the right approach at the plate.

This week's Scout features a peach-fuzz middle infield, a much-ballyhooed but fading ace and a few guys that just seem to have Toronto's number.

On to the Advance Scout!
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