ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays are attempting to reverse what has been an ugly start to the year, but they have the unenviable task of trying to do it at Tropicana Field.
Toronto has lost 17 consecutive completed road series against Tampa Bay dating back to 2007. Sixteen of those series took place at Tropicana Field while one series was held at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., in 2008.
It's the third-longest road losing streak in the history of the American League. The other two skids belong to the St. Louis Browns, who lost 19 consecutive series to the Yankees (1946-51), and 18 series to the Red Sox (1949-53).
"They've always been a good home team," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You look over the years, they have that magic late in the games, a lot of walk-off wins that are on the highlights all of the time.
"But when it comes down to it, they're a good team to begin with and you have to play good at your home field anyways. But it definitely has been a tough spot for us."
The Blue Jays entered play Monday night 10 games below .500. There's plenty of time remaining in the year, but with Toronto 9 1/2 games back in the AL East coming into the series opener, the club is dangerously close to being buried in its own division.
The lofty expectations from the offseason and again in Spring Training now seem like a distant memory. Gibbons has already conceded the Blue Jays didn't handle the hype very well, but there isn't one particular issue that has plagued the team.
Instead, it's that the 25-man roster hasn't really clicked in any specific area.
"We did embrace it, we haven't dealt with it really well, I'll put it that way," Gibbons said. "We haven't played good enough baseball to be any better than where we're at right now. We think that's going to change. You can't bury yourself too deep, otherwise it doesn't matter.
"We haven't hit enough over an extended period of time, we haven't hit enough, and defense, early on, bit us pretty good. We've cleaned it up a little bit, but you have to have all of those things. There's a lot of good teams in this league top to bottom, a lot of teams that expected they were the team that could win it all, so we certainly didn't expect it to be easy."
Gibbons pairs Blanco with Buehrle for opener
ST. PETERSBURG -- Veteran catcher Henry Blanco got a rare start over J.P. Arencibia for Monday night's game against the Rays.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons opted to give Blanco a shot behind the plate in an attempt to reverse left-hander Mark Buehrle's slow start to the year. It marked the first time this season that Blanco caught another starter besides knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
The move didn't exactly pay off, as Buehrle surrendered seven runs on nine hits in six innings of work. His ERA in seven starts this year now sits at 7.02.
"It's frustrating. I don't know, I can't pinpoint, baseball gods got something on me, but it seems like I can't catch breaks," Buehrle said. "Make a good pitch, they're hitting it. Make a bad pitch, and they're crushing it.
"I can't pinpoint one thing or the other on what it is. I'm going to go out there and keep working, not going to give up, going to keep on battling and try to get us a win."
Arencibia's absence in favor of the light-hitting Blanco created a major void in Toronto's batting order, but it wasn't long before the Blue Jays' starting catcher got his chance. Arencibia entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and later would become the hero in a game he didn't even start.
The native of Miami came up with a runner on third and two outs in the ninth and promptly hit a two-run homer to cap a seven-run comeback win. The day might not have started off the way he wanted it to, but the ending couldn't have been any more perfect.
"To help the team win is my biggest thing, and to hit something that gives us the lead is always huge," Arencibia said. "I think they're all pretty big in that case, if it's a walk, if it's a single, whatever it may be. But definitely to take the lead, it's big. I was excited to have that opportunity, and it worked out for us."
Arencibia currently leads all American League catchers with nine home runs this season. Five of those nine homers have been of the go-ahead variety, and he's tied for top overall honors on the club with cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion.
• Right-hander Kyle Drabek threw a bullpen session on Monday at the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla. There is no firm timetable on when Drabek will start getting into games, but he is expected to be out until July after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.
• Left-hander Luis Perez is expected to pitch in an extended spring game later this week. Perez has been throwing bullpen sessions but has yet to get into an actual game. He also had Tommy John surgery last year, but as a reliever, he should have a faster timetable than Drabek and right-hander Drew Hutchison, who also underwent the procedure.