The Toronto Blue Jays had been one of the majors' surprise teams as they charged into first place in the AL East. Now, they're learning about how to deal with adversity.
Toronto will try to snap a season-high five-game skid Sunday when it takes on the Atlanta Braves, who hope to continue their recent surge at home.The Jays' longest slide in nearly a year continued with a 4-3 defeat Saturday. It's Toronto's longest losing streak since dropping seven straight from June 14-21."We haven't shown up so far in this series," manager Cito Gaston said. "These guys have got to start swinging their bats like they did before this road trip. ... You have long streaks like this. You just have to keep going."Toronto (27-19) opened the swing with three consecutive losses to Boston. Gaston's club has been held to seven hits or less three times and is hitting only .241 during the slide.Still, the Jays have a one-half game lead over the Red Sox and New York Yankees in the division.Derek Lowe moved into a tie for the NL lead with his sixth win by pitching into the eighth inning and knocked in the go-ahead run with one of his two hits for Atlanta.After losing four straight from May 2-5, the Braves have won 11 of 16 and are 5-3 on their nine-game homestand. They began the stretch at Turner Field with the worst home record in the majors at 5-9."We needed to starting playing better at home, I think that's the most important thing," Lowe said.Toronto's Scott Richmond (4-2, 3.64 ERA) began the season with four victories in five starts, but now looks for his first win since May 8.Lack of run support has been a reason behind the Canadian-born right-hander's dry spell. In his last three starts, he's gotten six runs to work with while going 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA. In his first five appearances, he received 30 runs en route to a 4-0 record and 2.67 ERA.Richmond didn't get a decision Monday in a 3-2 win against the Chicago White Sox despite scattering five hits with seven strikeouts over seven shutout innings. That was after he was tagged for five runs and seven hits in only 1 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss to the Yankees on May 13."I just wanted to make sure I prepared myself. I didn't try to change too much -- go with my same game plan, stick to my strengths, and battle through it," he told the Blue Jays' official Web site.This will be Richmond's first start against Atlanta (22-20).Jair Jurrjens (4-2, 1.96) looks to win consecutive decisions for the first time since April 7-12. The right-hander had his best outing of 2009 on Tuesday against Colorado, allowing a run and three hits with a season-high eight strikeouts in the 8-1 victory.He was given six runs of support after Atlanta had provided Jurrjens with nine in his previous six outings."It's like going to the ice cream store when you're a little kid," he told the Braves' official Web site about the offensive outburst.His only career start against the Blue Jays was a gem. He gave up three hits over eight innings in 4-0 victory June 27 in Toronto.