Blue Jays hope to shake recent cold streak at plate

Toronto manages just six total runs over three-game series against Rays

Blue Jays hope to shake recent cold streak at plate

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays possess one of the league's best lineups, but they are finding out early in the season that while the runs come in bunches, there's also a tendency for the offense to dry up at times.

There doesn't seem to be much middle ground when it comes to production from Toronto's batting order. The club is either red hot, or ice cold, and that has led to a lot of extremes during the first three weeks of the year.

The Blue Jays were swept out of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon after scoring a total of six runs during a three-game series against the Rays. The lack of offense came on the heels of a series sweep over the Orioles during which Toronto scored 24 runs.

"I think over the course of the year we have to be consistent," left-hander Mark Buehrle said following Sunday's 5-1 loss. "When we're scoring 10 runs a game it's good, and I'm not saying we need to score 10 a game, but we just need to be consistent all around, in all aspects of the game, and it seems like we're not doing that.

"We have a few games good and a few games bad. When we're going good, we're not that good, and when we're going bad, we're not that. We just need to keep an even head on our shoulders and realize we're not as bad as we're playing right now."

Buehrle knows better than anyone how the Blue Jays' lineup can look so good one day and so bad the next. During Buehrle's first three starts, Toronto scored 37 runs, which made him the second pitcher in modern history to have at least 12 runs of support in his first three starts.

That gave Buehrle an easy ride to start the year, but it wasn't nearly as smooth on Sunday afternoon. Toronto managed two hits over seven scoreless innings against Rays ace Chris Archer and the only thing that saved the club from getting shut out was a two-out single in the ninth by Justin Smoak.

Toronto is 8-1 when it scores at least six runs and 1-9 when it scores four or less. Overall, that leads to a 9-10 record and while that shouldn't be surprising, the club does need to find a way to come away with some wins in those low-scoring games. In the Blue Jays' 10 losses, they have scored three runs or less in all but one of those games.

"One thing is that they all master the changeup," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked to explain his club's offensive struggles against Tampa Bay. "Even some of the power guys, they come in with some changeups. It sets them off.

"The key to pitching is throwing your offspeed stuff behind in the count. The changeup -- other than a located fastball -- may be the best pitch in baseball and they do a lot of that."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.