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Blue Jays need quick second-half start

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are looking to turn the page on a disappointing first half of the season, but the only way they can realistically do that is with a fast start out of the All-Star break.

Toronto finished the first half with a 45-49 record, which was the organization's worst mark heading into the break since 2004. It's a far cry from where the club thought it would be at this time of the year and the impact has been felt in the standings.

The Blue Jays entered play on Friday night trailing first-place Boston by 12 1/2 games. The outlook for the second Wild Card spot isn't a whole lot better with Toronto 8 1/2 games back of Texas.

"We need to do something quick, we really do, and the teams ahead of us in our division are all playing good," manager John Gibbons said. "We definitely need to play better baseball."

There was a glimmer of hope in the middle of June when the Blue Jays reeled off 11 consecutive wins to get back into the race, but all of the progress was then undone with a 7-13 mark before the break.

That creates the daunting challenge of needing to go 45-23 over the final 68 games of the season to reach the 90-win mark. It won't be easy, but with Melky Cabrera nearing a return, accompanied by J.A. Happ and Brandon Morrow hopefully not being too far off a strong post-break record is possible.

"We expected more wins, but as far as running the team and everything that happened, no," Gibbons said when asked if his job has been more difficult than expected this season. "You never know what to expect, but I think having done it before has helped that, having done it here, has helped that."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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