The Toronto Blue Jays left for their recently-completed road trip a week ago as the hottest team in baseball.
They return to the Rogers Centre once again a team under .500.
The Blue Jays hope to turn things around on Monday afternoon as R.A. Dickey tries to build off his best start of the season in the opener of a four-game series with the also-struggling Detroit Tigers.
When Toronto completed a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on June 23, it gave the Blue Jays a franchise record-tying 11 straight victories ahead of a road trip through Tampa Bay and Boston. Looking to make up even more ground in the AL East, the Blue Jays instead lost two of three to the Rays and three of four versus the Red Sox to return home 40-41 and 8 1/2 games out of first place.
Toronto lost a tough game on Sunday in Boston, falling 5-4 when an error by Josh Thole allowed the Red Sox to score the winning run in the ninth inning.
Thole, normally a catcher who came into the game at first base when Adam Lind exited after three innings due to back tightness, was unable to secure Shane Victorino's routine chopper as the ball trickled through is legs and into right field, allowing the winning run to score from second.
"Just didn't catch it," said Thole. "I need to catch the ball. That's the bottom line. "It sucks, but I've just got to catch the ball and make an out."
Boston's walk-off win came after Toronto's Jose Bautista had hit a game-tying solo homer in the top of the ninth inning to cap a three-hit game. Jose Reyes also hit a solo homer to help the Jays rally from a 4-2 deficit.
Dickey picked up one of Toronto's two wins on its road trip and he looks to get the club on track at home today.
The knuckleballer is coming off his first shutout with the Blue Jays, who acquired him this past offseason from the New York Mets, and sixth of his career as he held the Rays to just two hits and a walk in Wednesday's 3-0 triumph. Dickey struck out six and took a perfect game into the fifth inning.
"That's as good of a game as you can pitch, unless it's perfect," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons remarked.
Even more impressive for the 38-year-old and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner was that it came one start after he yielded six runs and three homers in a no- decision versus Baltimore. Dickey now sits at 7-8 on the season with a 4.72 earned run average in 17 starts, having won three of his past four decisions.
The right-handed Dickey is 4-2 with a save and 4.00 ERA in 14 career meetings with the Tigers, including seven starts.
Detroit is also going through some current struggles, losing two of three to the Rays on the first leg of an 11-game road trip. The Tigers have lost five of their past six overall to fall into a virtual tie with the Cleveland Indians for first place in the AL Central.
The Tigers, who will visit the Indians for four games after this series, held a five-game lead for the top spot as recent as June 17, but currently do not own sole possession of first place for the first time since May 23.
Miguel Cabrera hit his 25th home run of the season for Detroit in Sunday's 3-1 loss. He leads the AL with a .373 average and 82 RBI, while his home run total is second to Baltimore's Chris Davis (31).
Detroit's offense, though, couldn't back Rick Porcello's outing as he allowed three runs over six innings.
"We just haven't been producing any runs. It's been a problem for us and it was again today," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland will turn again today to 24-year-old Jose Alvarez, who makes his fourth career start -- all this season. He is stepping in for the injured Anibal Sanchez.
Alvarez is coming off his first career loss, a 7-4 setback to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday. The lefty yielded four runs on seven hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings.
Now 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA on the season, Alvarez will start on the road for the first time and has never before faced the Blue Jays.
The Tigers have won six of their past seven versus the Blue Jays, taking two of three at home from April 9-11.