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Blue Jays' rotation has been better than expected

Blue Jays' rotation has been better than expected

DETROIT -- The starting rotation has been an area of uncertainty for the Blue Jays this season, and while the same cannot be said in Detroit, the two groups have posted relatively similar numbers.

Toronto's starting five entered the season as a perceived weakness, but it has become a rather pleasant surprise of late. On the other side, the Tigers' starters were supposed to be the best in baseball but haven't lived up to that lofty hype quite yet.

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The two groups likely will eventually see some separation in their numbers, but for now they match up very evenly against each other. It's the type of news that would have come as a total shock two months ago.

"It has been a big turnaround for our rotation," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Especially coming into the season, that was the question mark. The big thing over the winter, were we going to add anybody or not? It didn't happen, so that was kind of hanging over our head, but these guys have come through."

The Blue Jays boast one of the best lineups in the Major Leagues, so they don't need a dominating performance every night from their starter. They need someone who will keep the game relatively close and allow the offense to do its thing, and that's exactly what has been occurring over the past several weeks.

Toronto's rotation entered Tuesday ranked fifth in the American League with a 3.77 ERA, fifth in opponents' batting average (.254), seventh in innings pitched (336 2/3) and eighth in WHIP (1.35). The Tigers hold a lead in ERA (3.68), opponents' batting average (.253) and WHIP (1.30), but trail in innings (320 2/3).

The fact that the Blue Jays' staff can even be put in the same conversation as the likes of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly at the start of June comes as a major surprise. But it's a testament to just how well left-hander Mark Buehrle has performed alongside the likes of R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison and J.A. Happ. Adding prospect Marcus Stroman into that mix could strengthen that core even more.

When the season is all said and done, though, Gibbons wouldn't be surprised if the Tigers are at the top for most of those major pitching categories.

"They still have the top rotation, arguably the top rotation, in baseball," Gibbons said. "They're good, you never want to face them. They've logged some innings the last few years, you get into the postseason, they go deep every year, there's some workhorses over there. They're good, they give you a chance to win every night."

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

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