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Seven out of ten.

That's what the Jays have to achieve, at minimum, over their long-anticipated ten-game stretch against the bottom-feeders of the American League, starting with Tampa Bay coming to town. Yes, the Jays are battling significant injuries. But so are the D-Rays, who have been so woeful on the road that Lou Piniella ordered his charges to show up one hour early tonight for a "fundamentals review session." The D-Rays can hit, but they can't pitch or field, and Toronto must take full advantage if they want to remain relevant in the AL East. It can be done, even sans Doc.

This week's Scout features a brash young power hitter, an old friend with his job on the line and some pretty good ideas from a long-suffering fan base.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays travel to the Metroplex sporting a 4-2 July record, and considering their tough opposition and the fact that they could well have won all six games, have to be feeling good about how they're playing. But before the All-Star Break and the sweet, sweet nectar of ten games against the D-Rays, M's and Royals, the Jays have another tough road series in Arlington, where they have simply not played well historically.

The Rangers are an interesting club that has posted a virtually identical record to the Jays, but not in the same way; Texas wins by blasting home runs -- tons of them -- off righthanded pitching. Each hitter in this potent lineup can be pitched to, but crushes mistakes. Sounds like an OK deal for Doc Halladay, but Josh Towers might be in tough.

Today's Scout features a lot of longballs, a Blue Jay draftee made good and a couple of Scott Boras sightings.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Swingin' (and, often, Takin') A's come into town on one of their trademark charges up the standings. What once appeared to be a good opportunity for the Jays to pick up ground after a tough road trip now appears to be a substantial challenge. Indeed, none of the pitching matchups seem to favour the Jays, who are hoping to build on their solid recent play.

That said, this Oakland club has built their recent resume on an awful lot of home dates, and against some suspect competition. The moment of truth is nigh for the Beaneiacs, who tonight embark on a tough trip to Toronto and Chicago, and return from the All-Star Break with eleven crucial meetings with the Angels and Rangers.

This week's Scout features some rapidly developing young talent, a tough-as-nails Canadian and an outfielder who may, in fact, be staying put.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays face a mighty challenge this weekend -- but it's also an opportunity.

With no chance to gain head-to-head ground on the Bosox after this series until September 12, this series is as big as it gets if the Jays believe themselves worthy of contention. Any series that features a Doc start is a series the Jays have a chance to win -- can Ted Lilly keep up his recent success against the Beantowners?

This week's Scout features a bevy of bats, an old but dear friend, and an embattled closer looking for answers.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Make no mistake: The Jays have a real opportunity to gain ground over the next three days.

The Jays face a speedy but utterly pitching-poor Devil Rays squad that failed to build on the momentum of having shakem off an embarrassing 20-11 loss to win a four-game series in the Bronx. Other than the typically reliable Danys Baez, there is simply no pitcher on this roster that ought to be able to overmatch the Blue Jay bats. Should the Jays avoid the Tropicana Field gremlins that have haunted them since the Tampa franchise was born, they should win this series going away.

This week's Scout features a lightning-quick duo, a slumping backstop and a young pitcher who needs to make serious amends to his teammates. And no, I don't mean Travis Harper.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Interleague play concludes with what will likely be the Jays' last "rivalry" series with the ex-Expos in the District of Columbia.

Can the Jays keep up their solid play from the Baltimore series against another first-place club? Washington has an excellent bullpen, and scoring runs early in the game will be critical for the Blue Jay bats.

This week's (somewhat abbreviated) Scout features a red-hot home squad, a slap-hitting utilityman with whom a highly respected manager is seriously enamoured and the return of the words "Esteban Loaiza." There, I said it. I even spelled it out.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Life doesn't get any easier for the scuffling Jays, who battle a couple of first-place Beltway clubs this week.

On the other hand, it's a four-game set that provides a real opportunity to make up ground within the division if the Jays can get their bats going -- and the return of proud Father's Day celebrant Vernon Wells will help. Of course, this will be difficult, since the Orioles are playing relaxed, smart baseball and are supporting their decent starting pitching with a fearsome lineup (even absent Javy Lopez).

This week's Scout features a somewhat slowing breakout season, a very lucky knight and a proud first-time recipient of an ejection.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays' old rivals from Wisconsin come to town in an interleague series that won't really feel like one. Milwaukee comes in as disheartened as any team would after dropping two of three to the D-Rays, but there is a sizeable contingent of young talent and good-to-quite-good pitching on the Brewer roster.

Fans should be in for an absolute treat on Saturday when Doc trades devastating curves with the talented, but ailing, Ben Sheets. Gustavo Chacin should have an easier time with the Brew Crew's lefty-heavy lineup than should Josh Towers.

This week's Scout features a Gary Sheffield doppelganger (really!), some injury news, and the gift that keeps on giving, courtesy of the Diamondbacks.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The high-flying St. Louis Cardinals come to town for their first regular-season visit to the T-Dot. Doc Halladay gets a chance to play the badly needed role of stopper tonight, against the Cardinals' #5 starter Jeff Suppan (although Suppan's no slouch).

St. Louis presents a formidable foe: an aggressive club with power and good defence, and a strike-throwing rotation supported by a great bullpen. Even without Scott Rolen, the Cards' middle of the order is fearsome. How did Boston make them look so bad last year?

This week's Scout features some scrappy little guys, a change in draft philosophy and the Rogers Centre's first Molina! sighting of 2005.

On to the Advance Scout!

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Only a brief Advance Scout report today, as the Jays travel to Minute Maid Park to take on the Astros for the first time in meaningful games.

Notwithstanding the former "Ten-Run Field" moniker of the retractable-roofed stadium, the Astros rely heavily on their starting pitching. True, the 'Stros will throw Clemens and Oswalt at the Jays this weekend, but a middling bullpen and the worst offence in the majors seem to present an opportunity for the Jays to win the series. Expect some pitchers' duels.

On to the Mini-Advance Scout!

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The road doesn't get much easier for the Jays, as they pay a visit to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field for the first time in franchise history. The Cubs are really swinging some hot bats at the moment, and Toronto's dormant offence will have to shape up, and stat, if they want to bounce back from a subpar West Coast jaunt.

The Cubbies send two inexperienced starters to the hill, with the surprising Glendon Rusch going in the middle game. As if the need to keep the ball down wasn't reinforced by the Oakland series, the Jays' staff has to be especially vigilant in keeping the ball down against an eager fastball-hitting squad that takes aim at the inviting gaps of Wrigley. If the wind blows out, it's a slugfest waiting to happen. Tonight's game will be key, as Chacin could put the Jays in excellent position to win the series on Wednesday, when Doc mercifully gets the ball again.

Today's Advance Scout features a Triple Crown threat, the unlikeliest of all sluggers, and plenty of superstar injury updates.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The A's come into this weekend four-game set coming off their first series sweep of the season. Is it the tonic that might send the A's on one of their trademark charges up the standings, or was it simply the case of playing a club -- Tampa Bay, naturally -- that might as well have a "SWEEP ME" sign stuck to the back of their road uniforms this season? I actually think it might be the latter. When was the last time the Jays played a four-game set at Oakland where none of the starting pitching matchups looked particularly daunting?

Sure, Billy Beane has had some awful luck, with injuries and/or poor play plaguing most of his talent. But on the field, the A's have been full value for their sorry last-place standing; the club is 7-9 in one-run games and 7-15 in games decided by four or more runs (they were 5-15 before the visit by T-Bay). The club struggles mightily to hit righthanded pitching, fields an unquestionably subpar starting rotation (at least until Rich Harden returns), and has a badly depleted bullpen. The A's can creep back into contention with simultaneous returns to health and form from most of the roster, but to assert that they definitely will is by no means obviously true.

This week's Scout features a big-league debut of a minor-league star, a fading rookie and a starting pitcher with more important things on his mind.

On to the Advance Scout!
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This week's Advance Scout brings the Mariners, a chance to gain ground on the competition, and the start of a long but winnable road trip.
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A very entertaining weekend of baseball appears to be on tap this weekend, as the Wild Card-leading Minnesotans come to town and Doc makes his return to the mound.

Johan Santana gets another crack at beating the Jays tonight, while Toronto tries to offer its own payback to Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays, both of whom stymied Blue Jay bats last week. One win would make this a fine homestand, and two wins would make it an exemplary one.

This week's Scout features an anxious outfielder, a controversial setup man and a couple of Canadians coming home. Don't miss next week's pinch-hit Advance Scout, in which the Mariners will be previewed by none other than the lovely and talented Craig Burley.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The defending champs come into town for their second three-game set at the Rogers Centre, which means that this is officially no longer the Early Part Of The Season. And if you told the Jays' brass that on May 24, they'd be tied with the Yankees and just 2 1/2 games back of the Red Sox, they'd obviously be beside themselves. Notwithstanding the fine start by the Orioles, they'll still take it, and the Jays have to realize that this is a legitimately big series and a chance to make some local fans take notice. Unsurprisingly, Doc will take advantage of yesterday's holiday to leapfrog Ted Lilly in the rotation, thus ensuring an opportunity to inflict his mastery on the mighty Bosox.

The press in Boston, at least, has taken notice. Noted Boston Globe curmudgeon Bob Ryan recently praised the competitiveness of the O's and Jays in print, observing that "[f]inally, we'll have division games other than the ones with You-Know-Who we can savour."

This week's Scout features a slumping shortstop, a mashing catcher and a struggling world champion far, far from home.

On to the Advance Scout!
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