The Toronto Blue Jays were either in first place or within striking distance of the top perch in the AL East before August rolled around.
The first two weeks of the month have not been pretty, to say the least.After opening an eight-game trip with three losses, the Blue Jays look to bounce back Friday night in the opener of a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox.Toronto (63-59) entered August trailing first-place Baltimore by 1 1/2 games in the division, but has gone 3-9 this month to fall 7 1/2 back of the surging Orioles.Toronto's starting pitchers have a decent 4.40 ERA in August, but the lineup has batted .236 with 104 strikeouts, 30 runs and 103 men left on base.The Blue Jays are also suffering through a power drought with five home runs this month after hitting 134 in their first 110 games. Toronto had gone deep 18 times in its first 14 after the All-Star break, posting an 11-3 mark in that span."That's the key to this game, that's the key to baseball," manager John Gibbons told MLB's website about the scoring woes. "Sometimes you get (runs), sometimes you don't."Six of Toronto's nine losses in August have come on the road, where the Blue Jays haven't won since July 31. They've compiled a .188 batting average in those contests and have been held to two or fewer runs in five of them.One of those games was a 2-0 loss to Seattle on Wednesday in which the Jays struck out 10 times to waste a solid outing by R.A. Dickey, who allowed seven hits over six innings but was done in by Kendrys Morales' two-run homer in the first.Toronto was outscored 19-4 during the sweep by the Mariners and is 3 1-2 games out of the AL's second wild-card spot. The Blue Jays could make up some ground in that chase with Seattle, half a game out of that spot, visiting Detroit this weekend."We need to take the day off, take a deep breath and go hard the next five games," Dickey told MLB's official website. "If we can have a good rest of the road trip we can still salvage it."Taking the hill in the opener of this series will be Marcus Stroman (7-3, 3.34 ERA), who has had two wildly different outings during Toronto's August swoon.Stroman's first start this month lasted a season-low three innings, during which he allowed five runs, in a 6-1 loss at Houston on Aug. 3. The right-hander then worked nine in a 3-2, 10-inning victory over Detroit on Saturday, failing to get a decision after allowing two runs and four hits on 109 pitches.Chicago (57-64) is returning home from a 2-4 trip that ended with a frustrating 7-1 loss to San Francisco on Wednesday. The Giants scored all their runs in the seventh after a replay overturned an out call at home.Hector Noesi (6-8, 4.67) gets the ball for the White Sox looking to continue a solid stretch in which he's gone 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA over five starts.The right-hander's most recent outing was arguably his best of the season. He held Seattle -- his former team -- to one run over 7 1/3 innings in a 2-1 win Saturday and didn't allow a homer for the first time in five starts."When you don't believe in somebody, you need to show them," said Noesi, who was designated for assignment and eventually traded by the Mariners this spring. The White Sox claimed him April 25 when Texas waived him.