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Burnett mounting a challenge to Doc

Burnett, Jays eye sweep of A's

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TORONTO -- There is a competition brewing atop the Blue Jays' rotation. For the first time since joining Toronto three years ago, A.J. Burnett is managing to keep pace with ace Roy Halladay in the win column.

On Thursday, Burnett is scheduled to take the mound in the finale of a four-game set against the A's with a realistic shot at claiming the team lead in victories. Burnett and Halladay are currently tied for that honor with 13 wins apiece, giving them each the third-highest total in the American League.

"It'd be great to have four or five guys at that point," said a smiling Halladay, when asked earlier this week about being in a deadlock with Burnett. "It's fun for me to see that. I'm obviously happy for him and I hope it continues. It's fun to have those little battles back and forth."

Wins aren't the only category in which Burnett and Halladay have been close competitors. Burnett currently leads the league with 153 strikeouts, while Halladay's 149 rank third in the AL. Halladay leads the league with 175 1/3 innings, while Burnett ranks fifth with 151 2/3 frames.

"There's nothing wrong with that -- not at all," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, referring to the impressive statistics put up by the duo. "These guys are teammates, they're friends, so I don't think it's going to come to pulling against each other.

"It's nice to have. I wouldn't mind if we had three guys like that."

The Jays might've had three or four starters with similar numbers, but Dustin McGowan has been shelved for the year with a right shoulder injury and Shaun Marcum missed a month earlier this season with a right elbow issue. Those losses have made the work of Burnett and Halladay especially important.

The 26 wins that Burnett and Halladay have combined to notch are the second-highest total for an AL duo this season. Only Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, with 14 and 13 wins respectively, have combined for more, totalling 27 victories on the Angels' staff. For Burnett, his 13 wins represent a new career high.

Burnett picked up that milestone with a win on the road against the Texas Rangers on Saturday. In that outing, the hard-throwing right-hander logged 5 2/3 innings, in which he allowed four runs on six hits with four strikeouts and a pair of walks. Over his past five starts, Burnett is 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 35 strikeouts across 33 innings.

Pitching matchup
TOR: RHP A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.57 ERA)
Burnett is 1-2 with a 3.77 ERA in five career appearances against Oakland.

OAK: RHP Justin Duchscherer (10-7, 2.33 ERA)
Duchscherer is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 10 career outings against the Jays.

Bird seed
Jays center fielder Alex Rios is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak, during which he's hit .379 (11-for-29). ... Catcher Rod Barajas is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak, during which he's hit .346 (9-for-26). Barajas has at least one hit in 11 of his past 12 games. ... First baseman Lyle Overbay matched a season high with three walks on Wednesday night. Overbay, who has walked seven times in the past 10 games, leads Toronto with 64 free passes this season. ... Left-hander Scott Downs has not allowed a run in 14 2/3 consecutive innings, and has yielded just three earned runs over his last 41 innings. ... Entering Wednesday, the Blue Jays led the AL at home in fewest earned runs allowed (179), fewest runs allowed (199), most complete games (five) and fewest home runs allowed (39). Toronto's 3.46 team ERA at home, dating back to the start of the 2007 season, ranked second in the Majors. ... Catcher Gregg Zaun has hit .429 (3-for-7) with one home run in his career against Duchscherer.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• SNET

On radio
• FAN 590

Up next
• Friday: Blue Jays (David Purcey, 1-2, 8.35) vs. Indians (Anthony Reyes, 2-1, 4.91), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 13-8, 2.77) vs. Indians (Paul Byrd, 6-10, 4.72), 1:07 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Blue Jays (Scott Richmond, 0-1, 4.91) vs. Indians (Cliff Lee, 15-2, 2.58), 1:07 p.m. ET

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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