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Blue Jays-Royals Preview

Blue Jays-Royals Preview
The Toronto Blue Jays haven't lost back-to-back games during their impressive start, but to avoid that fate they'll have to go through a pitcher off to a similarly strong beginning.

Gil Meche will try to lead the Kansas City Royals to a second straight victory over Toronto as the teams continue their four-game set at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Blue Jays' hot start has made them one of the league's biggest April surprises, but they have dropped two of their last three, falling percentage points behind Boston for the AL East lead.

Toronto (14-7) managed two hits in Monday night's 7-1 loss, going 1-for-7 with men in scoring position. The team is batting .204 without a home run in its last three contests, scoring seven runs over that span.

It may not be any easier against Meche, whose strong finish to 2008 appears to have carried over to this season.

Meche (1-1, 2.63 ERA) allowed five earned runs in 19 innings while winning his last three starts in September, and opponents are hitting .238 in four starts this season. He has 25 strikeouts in 27 1-3 innings.

The right-hander will be trying to rebound from his first loss, which came Thursday after reliever Ron Mahay gave up an eighth-inning homer in Kansas City's 5-2 loss to Cleveland, allowing two runners he inherited from Meche to score.

Still, Meche had been sharp through seven innings, earning praise from Cleveland manager Eric Wedge.

"He had it all working today," Wedge said. "He had his fastball, a good breaking ball, he was cutting the ball a little bit and he had a changeup, too. When he's on like that, he's tough to hit."

After scoring three total runs while losing back-to-back games to Detroit over the weekend, Kansas City's offense was back on Monday, with Jose Guillen helping to push the Royals (10-9) back over .500.

Guillen went 3-for-4 with his first two home runs of the season. The veteran outfielder was playing his third game since coming off the disabled list, but he looked fully recovered from a partially torn hip flexor.

"When I start hitting and the guys follow, that's huge," Guillen told the Royals' official Web site. "There's some extra motivation there. That's what I get paid for.

"Hopefully, we can put this team together and realize how good we are and start winning games," he added. "I think it's time for people to recognize our team as a winning team, not as a losing team."

Guillen will try to continue his surge against Toronto's Scott Richmond (2-0, 3.31), but the 29-year-old rookie has pitched well. The right-hander earned a second consecutive win after allowing two runs in six innings of a 5-2 win over Texas on Thursday, striking out eight.

"You can't put it to words what he's doing," first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "He's spotting his pitches, he knows what he's got to do. He's got the stuff to get guys out, it's just a matter of location. He was putting that curveball on those lefties in a perfect spot where they're not going to hit it and if they do hit it, they're going to ground out. It was fun to see. He can do that all year."

While Richmond has never faced the Royals, Meche has lost three straight starts against Toronto despite a 3.57 ERA in those outings. Alex Rios is 10-for-15 against Meche.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 28, 2009

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