On the road again

John Gibbons made his first trip back to Toronto this past weekend, and had a lot of good things to say about his former club. He praised manager Cito Gaston, the man who took over for Gibbons last June. And he was vocal about his support of Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill, calling him ‘one of the classiest young guys in the league,’ and a ‘true professional.’

After his new team – the Kansas City Royals – lost two of three in Toronto, Gibbons also had a few interesting remarks about the Blue Jays and their performance at home at the Rogers Centre during his tenure.

“Our record at home was always really good,” Gibbons said. “We had a lot of wins when I was here in this place. That really sticks out. It was a good home-field advantage here.”

And it’s true. From 2004-2008, the Jays posted a winning percentage of .565 (229-176). They’re off to a great start at home again in 2009, posting a .677 (21-10) mark through 31 games. That’s second best in the American League, trailing only the Boston Red Sox (.692).

It appears home hasn’t been the problem for the Jays. It’s the road where difficulties arise. And that was no more evident than during Toronto’s last road trip – an unforgettable romp through Boston, Atlanta and Baltimore. In 10 days, the Jays lost nine straight ball games en route to the worst road trip in franchise history. As a result, they returned to Toronto with an unimpressive 11-17 road record this year.

Playoff teams don’t always play above .500 on the road. As an example, the Tampa Bay Rays finished slightly under .500 (40-41) during last year’s regular season, but still managed to win the AL East. Playing on the road is tough – there’s no way around that fact. But the Jays are likely going to have to play .500 ball (likely a bit better) away from home if they want a shot at a playoff spot this year. That means an improvement going forward.

The journey starts tonight as the Jays start a four-game series in Arlington against the Texas Rangers. Oh, and they’ll have to do it without Roy Halladay, who started Sunday and won’t be available until the team returns to Toronto on Friday.

It may be time for the rest of the pitching staff to show its mettle.

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