There's a lot more on the line than the Blue Jays' third straight victory in Tuesday night's game against the Mariners for Josh Johnson.
Johnson will be making his 16th start for Toronto, but a 17th outing may be in jeopardy as he finds himself deeply rooted in a career-worst slump.
The right-hander has allowed 25 earned runs over his past 16 innings, five or more runs over his last four starts, and has come away with a loss in six straight decisions. A stretch that he admitted has been his most frustrating as a professional.
"We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "It's really start to start at this point. That's really the only way to characterize it. Right now, he's going to make one more start and we'll see how he does but we'll continue to evaluate it each time."
Making matters worse for Johnson, he will be opposed by Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who hasn't allowed more than two earned runs over his last seven starts, including seven innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox in his last outing.
It makes a second straight challenging night for the Blue Jays hitters, who faced Hisashi Iwakuma in Monday's win.
"Against those two guys, you definitely take that," Toronto skipper John Gibbons said after Toronto's 3-1 victory. "There comes a time, you got to hit the good ones, you got to beat the good ones, too. You just can't beat up on the [poor ones,] you have to beat up the good ones, too."
The Blue Jays faced Hernandez on May 3, when King Felix tossed eight shutout innings, allowing only five hits with eight strikeouts.
With the season slowly slipping away for both clubs, who sit an identical 52-60 and 10 games back of the second American League Wild Card, the importance of the remaining two games of the series aren't lost on Gibbons.
"At this point, every win is a big win," Gibbons said. "I mean really, the way it's been going."
Mariners: Ackley briefly returns to second
Dustin Ackley had been a second baseman for most of his Major League career, but has been an outfielder for more than two months.
On Monday night, Ackley started at second for the first time since May 26.
The 25-year-old, who went 1-for-4, admitted he was a little taken aback by the lineup card posted by acting manager Robby Thompson.
"A little bit of a surprise, but I've been taking ground balls and all that kind of stuff every since I started playing outfield," Ackley said. "They always told me to be ready just in case, and I think I see why now."
The decision to move Ackley to the outfield was due in large part to the success of rookie second baseman Nick Franklin. But with the season's grind starting to wear on the 22-year-old Franklin, who's hitless in his last 24 at-bats, Thompson gave him a day off.
Blue Jays: Weighing in on Biogenesis investigation
After 13 players were suspended by Major League Baseball for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program on Monday, Mark DeRosa shared his thoughts.
The Blue Jays veteran felt that time away from the game and lost income isn't the biggest deterrent to performance-enhancing drugs.
"Everybody knows their names," the 38-year-old said. "That, to me, is more damaging than anything. You lose your name, you lose your reputation, your family's embarrassed, your teammates are embarrassed, your management's embarrassed. Money is one aspect of it and it's a huge aspect of it. I'm sure losing a couple millions of dollars, [like] some of these guys in the big leagues, is definitely a deterrent.
"To me, your name is all you take from this game. What kind of person you were. What kind of player you were. I would never want anyone to say I was a little fake or a liar."
Although Monday's suspensions were between 50 games and 211, Gibbons isn't sure if the league can ever be rid of PEDs in its entirety.
"I don't know if you ever can. Somebody's always willing to cheat to get ahead, in any walk of life," Gibbons said. "I don't think you can ever totally eliminate it, but you need to try. I think that the bigger the penalty the better. That's the only way. You got to feel some pain."
• Seattle and Toronto are tied for second as the biggest threats in the league for the long ball. The Mariners and Blue Jays have 138 home runs each, including Justin Smoak's 11th of the season in Monday's contest off of R.A. Dickey. Fourty-seven of those homers for the Mariners have come in the seventh inning or later, the best in the Majors.
• Hernandez (11-4, 2.30) and Iwakuma (10-5, 2.75 ERA) have combined to go 21-9 with a 2.52 ERA in 47 starts this season.
• The Blue Jays have not won a season series in Seattle since 2004.