Nobody was happier to see the calendar turn to August more than Toronto right-hander Josh Johnson. On Thursday, Johnson tries to put a miserable month of July behind him when the Blue Jays begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium.
Johnson hasn't been particularly effective in any month this season, but July was especially brutal for the one-time Cy Young Award candidate. He lost all five starts in July and pitched to a 7.71 ERA in doing so.
"He's scuffling. That's an understatement," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "He's feeling it. He's human. You feel for the guy. He hasn't struggled a whole lot in his career. He's trying to settle in, he's trying to contribute, (but) it hasn't gone well for him."
Johnson's most recent loss came to hapless Houston on Saturday, as he was ripped for seven runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, dropping him to 1-7 on the year to go along with a 6.08 ERA.
"This game will definitely test you," Johnson said. "(My confidence is) not real high, but you have to stay positive. (You've) got to find a way to stay positive ... find a way to get through it and be better because of it."
Johnson has never faced the Angels, but is 0-4 with a 7.66 ERA in five starts away from home this season.
Toronto enters this series playing well, despite the fact that it still sits in last place of the American League East, 14 games behind the division- leading Boston Red Sox.
The Blue Jays won for the fifth time in seven tries on Wednesday, as Jose Bautista's RBI double in the top of the 10th inning helped them beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-2.
"I thought we played a good game," Gibbons said.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, is certainly happy to be heading home after suffering three straight walk-off losses to the Texas Rangers. It was the first time that the team dropped three consecutive games in that fashion.
In fact, the last team to get swept in a three-game series on three walk-off homers was the Montreal Expos -- now the Washington Nationals -- from May 10-12, 1999, against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"Obviously this last week has been rough for some guys in the 'pen, but we're going to keep going," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Things will get better as we move forward. Some guys who have been pitching a lot need to recharge a bit."
Getting the call for the Angels on Thursday will be righty Garrett Richards, who is 2-4 with a 4.33 ERA. Richards did not get a decision on Saturday in Oakland, but pitched well, scattering three hits over five scoreless innings in his team's 3-1 loss.
The Blue Jays and Angels split their eight meetings last season.