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In rushed the scout. "I'm sorry I'm late, good sir", he said, "but news of the strangers from the cloudless kingdom was hard to come by". As exhaustion overtook him, he held out the papers at arms length. Sadly for him, just then he collpased in a heap and drew his last breath. I took his notes and saw that they were in disarray.

I sighed and reflected - this is a major editing job. So I set to work as best I could.

On to the advance scout ....
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Folks, I'm sorry to do this twice in such short order, but real life again precludes a full Advance Scout (and I had some good stuff this week!) I'll try and supplement it and/or re-post it this week. In the meantime, here are the pitching probables and lineups for the Jays' first interleague series of the season.

Stay tuned Friday for a pinch-hit Scout from the lovely and talented Robert Dudek.
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If both teams were healthy and productive, this would be a real doozy of a four-game series. But with Delgado, Halladay and Chavez all out of commission, plus various and sundry other Jays, it'll boil down to a battle of patchwork lineups.

Of course, Chavez's Gold Glove defence will be missed. But he was also one-fourth of a formidable middle of the order that has essentially generated all of Oakland's (modest) run production this season. If the Jays starters can handle Dye, Durazo and Hatteberg, they'll be successful, period.

As for pitching, the A's have had a typically strong starting rotation supported by excellent defence. Still, the Athletics' bullpen has been slumping badly, their starters have been less consistent than normal and Mark Mulder's turn in the rotation thankfully won't come up this weekend.

This week's Scout involves walk-off blasts, a pop-off at Network Associates Coliseum, a costly ninth-inning cross-up, and any number of other hyphenated words to kick-start the four-game series.

On to the Advance Scout!
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I'm still visiting friends and family in Toronto, so this installment of the Scout will unfortunately be free of analysis and anecdotes. To get you started on the series, though, I've posted the lineups, probables and bullpen breakdown of the struggling M's. Note that flamethrowing reliever Rafael Soriano is on the DL and will not pitch this week.

Stay tuned on Thursday for a super-charged Advance Scout, previewing the Jays' series against our friends from Oakland. In the meantime, it was great meeting Named for Hank, Bird Droppings, Thomas, #2Brumfield and the gang in 518 yesterday. Coach was great company, as always.

Enjoy the series!
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Fresh off their sweep against the division-leading Angels, the Jays have a chance to make up further ground this weekend against Texas. The Rangers should be motivated after suffering the embarrassment of back-to-back shutouts on the South Side of Chicago, but might also be a little weary as they continue a road trip that won't end soon.

The Rangers lineup features some lively bats, including platoons in left, centre and DH that are generally working out very well. Although some Ranger stars are mired in slumps, sweet-swinging Michael Young remains a dangerous hitter at the top of the order. On the pitching side of the ledger, Texas features an improved bullpen; like an offensive line in football or a referee in hockey, the fact that they're seldom noticed reflects well on them. This weekend, the Jays face a struggling righty, a fresh-faced youngster and a veteran lefty pitching with a lot of confidence. Should be fun, and I'm making the trek back home this weekend to take in some of the action!

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays had a tough weekend against the beasts of the East in Boston. But their homestand might be even tougher, as the Jays tangle with two of the best in the ultra-tough West.

How are the Angels, featuring (a) five key players out with long-term injuries, (b) not much of a batting eye and (c) a mediocre starting rotation, sitting pretty with baseball's best record? By applying the same formula that they followed en route to their 2002 world championship: fine defence, a rock-solid bullpen and a very, very high collective batting average to accompany their speed and power. You could look it up: The Angels are 27th in walks as a club -- but first in runs scored. In large part, the Angels owe their offensive success to timely hitting, as they lead both leagues by far in RISP hitting. Some say they're "clutch"; others, no doubt, view their performance thus far as lucky and unsustainable. We'll see.

Even allowing for very high hopes when the Angels dipped into the free-agent pool, Jose Guillen and the amazing Vladimir Guerrero have nevertheless surpassed expectations. The Jays would be wise to tread carefully with these two free-swinging outfielders, because there are holes in the Anaheim lineup. The problem is, the Halos don't strike out -- and a ball-in-play offence may well give the Jays defence fits, especially on turf. If the Jays can get to the Anaheim starters early, though, they just might make this homestand a successful one.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays renew acquaintances with the Red Sox in short order after last weekend's four-game set. After taking two of three from the Devil Rays during the week, Boston sits a half-game back of their bitter rivals from the Bronx. Hopefully, Toronto took advantage of yesterday's badly needed off-day to regroup, shake off their disappointing losses against the Twins, and focus on making themselves relevant again this season. Though it won't be easy, a series win at hostile Fenway would be a great first step in that direction.

This weekend, the Jays face three pitchers coming off starts with which they were most satisfied. On the other hand, the feared Bosox lineup features three key injuries and some notable slumps. Enjoy this version of the Scout, and please have a safe and enjoyable Victoria Day weekend!

On to the Advance Scout!
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Once again, duty intrudes...Nevertheless, here's a quick bite-sized Scout for the three-gamer at the dome with the Central-leading Twinkies.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Bosox make their second visit to SkyDome on the season, still in first place (if no longer by themselves in the top spot). After the Jays' disheartening defeat yesterday, four games with the Red Sox does not exactly seem to be a welcome tonic for the bullpen blues.

Still, there is reason for optimism. Boston's still missing two key bats, and several 2003 mashers (see, e.g., Mueller, Bill; Ortiz, David) have been rather ordinary offensive players in 2004. And while tonight's opponent, Curt Schilling, has been outstanding this season, the Jays have been the only team in the AL to have roughed him up this season -- and they've done it twice. Can beating The Drum help us beat the Red Sox? We'll see...

Finally, I'd like to apologize to one and all for not scouting the Royals' series. Alas, real life occasionally interferes.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Jays seem to have finally shaken their SkyDome jinx. Unfortunately, they face a curse that foiled them last weekend -- not once, but twice: The White Sox One-Run Magic.

One might think that a team that excels in one-run games to the tune of winning eleven of twelve might have a dominant closer. Instead, Damaso Marte has been shaky, and Billy Koch has converted more than his share of comfortable leads into one-run nailbiteers. One might also think that a firm, experienced skipper might be at the helm of a one-run juggernaut. But instead, it's rookie manager Ozzie Guillen, who has been haphazardly substituting and making pitching changes seemingly based entirely on instinct. To Guillen's credit, though, his Sox play hard, and the clubhouse is harmonious.

So what's my point? Point is, the bubble's bound to burst. Here's hoping the Jays break through against nemesis Jon Garland tonight for a close victory, followed by some big offence in the weekend games. Should be an entertaining series.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Something's gotta give. The last-place Kansas City Royals, just 1-10 on the road this season, visit SkyDome, where the homestanding Blue Jays are a mere 1-8.

As you might expect from a team with a worse record than our slumping Jays, the Royals are struggling mightily to come up with timely hits -- the brilliant all-around play of Carlos Beltran notwithstanding. On the pitching side, the news is even worse for K.C.; their 5.55 ERA is easily the AL's worst, and they've struck out a league-fewest 113 batters, which equals one hundred fewer victims than those claimed by the Cubs' staff thus far.

Three hittable lefties are on the docket for the Jays this week. One of these two teams will snap out of its funk. Who will it be?

On to the Advance Scout!
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It's off to the Windy City for the Jays and their shell-shocked bullpen. After falling victim to some late-inning heroics in Minneapolis, Toronto now faces an opponent for whom come-from-behind rallies have become standard operating procedure. Despite trailing 8-2 in the sixth and 8-4 in the ninth last night, Ozzie Guillen's ChiSox still managed to pull out a 9-8 victory over Cleveland.

The Pale Hose can go yard with anybody, and with Juan Uribe swinging a hot bat, the heart of the order has become that much more dangerous. On the pitching side of the ledger, the starting staff has been vulnerable, while the bullpen has been steadier (though not failsafe by any means.) This week's Scout includes a rookie manager, a struggling slugger and some brewing bad blood between the Sox and their richer National League neighbours on the North Side.

Hopefully, some of our Chicago-area Bauxites like Mathesond and Dr. Zarco can give us some first-hand accounts from the four-game set. Judging from their comments over the last few days, Chicago will indeed be the Windy City -- and very possibly the Rainy City as well this weekend.

On to the Advance Scout!

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For the second straight series, the Jays hit the road for a series with a division leader. And if the Jays keep on hitting, they can once again bump their opponent out of first place by earning a series win on the road.

The 12-6 Twins have not been meaningfully slowed by their well-documented slew of injuries. Surprising contributions from Lew Ford and Henry Blanco -- yes, that Henry Blanco -- have offset the potential offence lost when the Twinkies' opening series landed Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer on the injured list. And though the Twins haven't gotten nearly the performances they had hoped for from their three starters on the docket this week, their excellent bullpen has held down leads and kept Minnesota in games that the club's bats have subsequently won in the late innings.

The key for the Jays will be to strike early and get to the starting staff; hopefully, the Jays saved some of their overflowing offence from yesterday. The Jays do not want to face a comeback attempt against the tough trio of Rincon, Romero and Nathan.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Just how important was the Jays' come-from-behind victory last night? Time will tell. While it could just be a blip of Chris Gomez magic, it might also be the game when the Jays, facing a stud starter with nary a break to be found, reversed their slide and began their ascension into relevance in the American League East.

In recent years, the Jays have owned the Orioles, but the new-look Birds trounced Toronto in three straight at SkyDome last weekend. Will it be "road sweet road" for the Jays?

The Orioles' offensive acquisitions have been hitting up a storm. More impressive, though -- and possibly more important to the club's early success -- has been the outstanding work up and down the Orioles bullpen. Other than a Jorge Julio gag job in Tampa a week and a half ago, Baltimore's bullpen has been as lights-out as any in baseball. Here's hoping the Jays channel some of last night's late-inning magic -- but a few early leads wouldn't hurt, either.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Let's be optimistic: This could be a defining series for the home side. The Jays, winless at home and having played a dispirited first dozen games of the season, catch a Boston club that might be poised for a letdown after their rousing four-game set with the hated Yankees. Obviously, the Jays need to simply perform better in all areas of the game if they want to get their season back on track. But from where I sit, I'd be encouraged if they rediscovered their mental edge this series -- a little Fighting Jays spirit could go a long way.

We have a special guest author for today's Advance Scout: Tim Daloiso of the Red Sox Times. His intelligent (and stylish) site is a must-read if you like your Red Sox updates served up with a bit of progressive politics for good measure. Thanks, Tim!

On to the Advance Scout!

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