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Jays' offense in need of a kick-start

Jays fall to split series vs. Tigers

TORONTO -- In the fourth inning of Monday's game, the Blue Jays' offense managed to load the bases with one out. Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun stepped to the plate in what was a prime opportunity to score.

Four pitches later, Zaun was slowly walking back to the dugout after being called out on strikes. The next batter, right fielder Joe Inglett, swung at the first pitch he saw, bouncing a weak grounder to first base, ending the scoring threat.

Over the recent homestand at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays have seen a plethora of scoring chances slip away in similar fashion. On Monday, Toronto's inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities contributed to a 5-1 loss at the hands of Detroit.

Against Texas, followed by Detroit (7-13) over the weekend, Toronto finished the homestand with a 2-4 record. One of the big reasons was a .125 (7-for-56) batting average with runners in scoring position. The Jays scored a total of 19 runs during the six-game stretch, for an average of 3.16 runs per game.

On Monday, the Jays (10-10) went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The team loaded the bases twice, but it was unable to score both times.

"We've had at-bats where we've hit the ball hard, but it's just one of those [droughts] we're going to go through," Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "The numbers don't really show what's happening. I think we're hitting the ball. We're having good at-bats. We're just not getting those hits."

The Blue Jays' inability to drive in runners has also left the team searching for one of its hitters to give the lineup a much-needed boost, someone to help carry the offense through its rough patch. After Monday's game, it was clear the team hopes such a player will arrive in Scott Rolen, the third baseman who is recovering a broken right middle finger.

The Jays acquired Rolen in a January trade that sent third baseman Troy Glaus to the Cardinals. In Spring Training, however, Rolen suffered a non-displaced fracture of the middle finger on his right hand, which forced him out of action. Rolen is currently on a rehab appearance in the Minor Leagues, and if all goes well, he should be ready to join the team in the coming weeks.

"We haven't been scoring a ton of runs," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But we still like our offense. Rolen is not that far away. He'll give us that boost along the way. But you hit those spells. That's just the way it goes."

Overbay also mentioned the upcoming return of Rolen.

"Scott Rolen is going to bring a consistency, I think, more than anything," Overbay said. "He is going to hit his home runs, but it's just more of getting that base hit up the middle. He does that real well."

Until the Blue Jays can find a consistent source of runs, the pressure will fall on the pitching staff to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. On Monday, Toronto starter Shaun Marcum (2-1) was unable to do so. The righty was coming off three straight solid outings where he collected two wins.

Marcum struggled to locate his fastball and changeup against the Tigers, leading to a second inning in which Detroit brought 10 batters to the plate and scored four runs.

"[The changeup has] been garbage the last couple of outings," said Marcum, "so I have to get down to the bullpen and get that figured out.

"It's probably mechanics or I'm trying to do too much with it, trying to make it too good instead of just throwing it for a strike and letting the hitters get themselves out with it."

Marcum walked three batters in the second inning, and he was not helped by two Toronto fielding errors behind him.

"I got in trouble early, walking some people," he said. "That's never a good thing. You're walking people, your pitch count is getting up and you're putting people on base. You want to make them swing the bat. You don't want to help them out."

David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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