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TOR@CLE: Johnson strikes out six over seven solid

Many projected the Blue Jays and Angels to be among the American League titans this season. Through the season's first four months, that has not panned out.

The two underachieving clubs will meet Thursday in the first game of a four-game series at Angel Stadium.

The Blue Jays made their big splash over the winter, so Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline passed with relative silence in Toronto.

Now, if the Blue Jays could just get all of those pieces they added healthy and firing on all cylinders, they might not be sitting in the AL East basement.

Josh Johnson, one of those offseason acquisitions, has posted a 1-7 record and 6.08 ERA in 14 starts this season. He is slated to toe the rubber in Thursday's series opener at Angel Stadium as Toronto advances to the second leg of its three-city West Coast road trip.

Over his last three starts -- all losses -- Johnson has compiled a 12.51 ERA. The opposition has racked up a .344 average and 1.092 OPS against him during that span.

"He's scuffling. That's an understatement," said Blue Jays skipper 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."

Gibbons revealed on Tuesday that Johnson has been dealing with a minor knee injury all season. Johnson has never faced the Angels, and the Blue Jays and Angels have yet to meet this season.

The Angels also are scuffling and sent off two key pieces -- lefty reliever Scott Downs and third baseman Alberto Callaspo -- prior to the Trade Deadline. Those moves, coupled with first baseman Albert Pujols likely being out for the year, have many saying the season is over for the Halos, who have dropped a season-high six straight.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, however, likes his team.

"A lot of people are focusing on the holes of our team, but we are focusing on the positives," Scioscia said. "There are a lot of things offensively we can do. As our pitching staff gets back together, especially getting Jason Vargas back, that will have a positive affect on getting the bullpen intact where it needs to be. There are positive things we bring. We'll go out and get after it every night."

Blue Jays: Toronto explored deals
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said he had a couple of deals in the works before Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they never came to be.

"Like we do every Trade Deadline, we had plenty of dialogue leading into it," Anthopoulos said. "We had something we were trying to do much before the Trade Deadline, and last week it probably fell apart.

"I don't know that we were ever that close, but for a day or two we had momentum and it fell apart. There was one other thing we were hopeful to get done that it looked like we had a chance and were moving towards, but that didn't really materialize as of yesterday morning."

Angels: Rough 'pen-manship
It wasn't a save situation, but on the first day the Angels decided to use a closer-by-committee route, the ninth inning again didn't go well. Michael Kohn surrendered a walk-off homer to Adrian Beltre in the ninth inning Wednesday, the third straight game an Angels pitcher allowed a walk-off home run -- following Ernesto Frieri's struggles on Monday and Tuesday.

Along with Frieri and Kohn, Nick Maronde, Dane De La Rosa and Kevin Jepsen could get the ball in the ninth inning.

• Right-hander Garrett Richards gets his second start on Thursday since rejoining the rotation. The righty allowed three hits in five shutout innings against Oakland his last time out.

Worth noting
• The Blue Jays and Angels split their eight meetings last season.

• On Tuesday, Toronto reliever Steve Delabar became the first pitcher in franchise history to strike out the side on nine pitches.

• Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick has a five-game hitting streak.

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