Streaking Jays welcome Rockies for three

Carlos Gonzalez (AP/David Zalubowski)

The Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays haven’t played much during the last two decades, but whenever they have faced off, the home team has been unbeatable, winning all 12 contests.

There’s no predictive value in results from years ago, yet the streaking Blue Jays hope the trend lasts a little longer as they prepare to host the Rockies for three games at Rogers Centre starting Monday.

The Blue Jays, winners of five in a row and eight of 10, have finally been getting the strong starting pitching they anticipated heading into the season. Surprisingly enough it’s Esmil Rogers and Chien Ming-Wang who have been among the leading contributors of late.

Josh Johnson starts for the Blue Jays Monday as they welcome the high-powered Rockies offence to Toronto. Thankfully for Johnson and others on the Toronto pitching staff they won’t have to face Troy Tulowitzki, the Colorado shortstop who will miss four to six weeks with a broken rib.

HOW THE ROCKIES WIN: Even without Tulowitzki, the Rockies are one of baseball’s elite offences. Their outfield of Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer has already combined for 40 home runs — a major reason the Rockies lead the National League in runs scored.

(For context, two teams have yet to hit 40 home runs this year: the Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins.)

The Rockies are not simply a product of hitter-friendly Coors Field, either. They have a .757 OPS on the road — second in baseball behind only the Baltimore Orioles. They also rank second in MLB in the advanced metric weighted on-base average (wOBA) with a .330 road mark.

Their pitching has been good, too, with a strong bullpen and a rotation that has been better than expected if not dominant. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio — three fifths of the team’s starting rotation — have each already surpassed their 2012 innings totals for the 37-33 Rockies.

Relievers such as Adam Ottavino, Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers have been pitched reliably for rookie manager Walt Weiss, who was hired last winter after the 2012 team set a franchise record with 98 losses under Jim Tracy.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays return from Texas, where they swept the Rangers in a four-game weekend series. They remain in last place in the AL East with a 32-36 record, but the .500 mark finally appears to be within reach after a poor start to the season.

Despite their recent hot streak, the Blue Jays are still outside of the playoff picture. Baseball Prospectus estimates that the Blue Jays have a 5.0 per cent chance of reaching the playoffs in 2013. The Rockies, on the other hand, have a 27.5 per cent chance of playing October baseball.

WATCH OUT FOR CARGO: Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez leads the National league in home runs (20), total bases (171) and slugging percentage (.650) this year. The 27-year-old is hitting .316 with a .391 on-base percentage and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts as one of the most productive offensive players in baseball.

Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter, finished third in MVP voting in 2010 and made the NL All-Star team in 2012.

PROBABLE PITCHERS: The Blue Jays pushed back Johnson’s start due to a blister on his pitching hand that had yet to heal completely. Wang started Sunday, pitching seven shutout innings in a 7-2 Blue Jays win.

Here are the probable pitchers for the three-game series against the Rockies:

Monday: Josh Johnson vs. Jorge De La Rosa

Tuesday: Esmil Rogers vs. Jeff Francis

Wednesday: Mark Buehrle vs. Juan Nicasio

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