So here we go. Following a fairly easy 14-game stretch against sub .500 teams, the Rays will be back at it Friday, beginning a 10-game AL East road trip. First stop on the itinerary: Toronto, for a three-game set.
The Blue Jays were the hottest team in baseball the last time Tampa Bay faced Toronto. Tampa Bay snapped their 11 game winning streak in that series, effectively relegating the Blue Jays to the cellar of the AL East, and consequently harkening the start of a 20 game stretch where the Rays went 16-4, leading up to the All-Star Break. The Rays will try to continue their toasty ways with a deadly trio of hurlers on the mound — David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Archer. The Rays are 7-1 when Price, Hellickson, or Archer has taken the mound since Price’s return from the DL, at the beginning of July.
Esmil Rogers: Per Rotowire, “Rogers was saddled with a no-decision Wednesday despite allowing one run and striking out seven over six innings of work.” Despite posting a good slash line against the Rays, Toronto is 1-3 this season when Rogers takes the mound against Tampa Bay, including a 4-1 loss back in the tail end of June. You may recall, Rogers was the recipient of back-to-back-to back homers by James Loney, Wil Myers, and Sam Fuld. Key match-ups: Sam Fuld (1-4, HR, RBI), Desmond Jennings (1-4, HR), Jose Lobaton (1-4, BB), James Loney (6-21, 2B,2 HR, 3 RBI), Wil Myers (2-3, HR, RBI), Ben Zobrist (1-3, BB).
Mark Buehrle: Per Rotowire, “Buehrle was battered for eight runs on nine hits over six innings of an 8-5 loss to the Orioles on Friday night. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.” The Rays have now tagged Buehrle for 13 runs (all earned) in 18 innings of work this season, all on the backs of 21 hits and eight walks. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (5-14, 2B, RBI, BB), Sam Fuld (1-3), Desmond Jennings (3-9, RBI, 2 BB), Kelly Johnson (3-14, RBI), James Loney (5-15, 2 2B), Evan Longoria (7-21, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB), Jose Molina (10-31, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB), Wil Myers (1-3, RBI), Ryan Roberts (2-7, RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (5-15, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Ben Zobrist (3-11, 2B, 2 RBI).
RA Dickey: Per Rotowire, “Dickey (8-10) allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland. He struck out seven, walked three, hit two batters and allowed six hits.” Dickey continues his up and down season with the Blue Jays. We’re pretty familiar with his last start against Tampa Bay, though the Rays have been able to beat up on Dickey (relatively speaking) this season. Regardless, he’s still going to be tough. Key match-ups: Kelly Johnson (2-7, 2B, BB), Evan Longoria (3-12, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB).
- Per CBS Sports, Rays manager Joe Maddon said shortstop Yunel Escobar felt “pretty good” after working out with the team Thursday, MLB.com reports. Escobar is recovering from a mild hamstring strain suffered Sunday, and he isn’t expected to miss much, if any, playing time. If you must read into that, “It’s hardly an indication that Escobar will be available Friday against the Blue Jays, but the encouraging words from Maddon suggest the shortstop has made noticeable improvement during the All-Star break. He first obtained the injury in Sunday against the Astros and was removed from the game, though Escobar said he could have remained in the game if needed.”
- The Rays placed first baseman James Loney on the paternity leave list. Loney can stay on the list up to three days, though it’s not clear if he’ll miss that much time. Sean Rodriguez is likely to handle first base while Loney is away. In a corresponding move, INF Ryan Roberts has been recalled from Triple-A Durham.
- Price is 6-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts at Rogers Centre.
- Tampa Bay starters have posted a 1.91 ERA while recording a club-record 15 straight quality starts.
- Jose Reyes has batted .322 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 28 games since returning from a two-month stint on the DL.
- Alex Cobb will make his first minor league rehab start on Tuesday, pitching for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs. He threw a 59 pitch simulated game Tuesday, saying afterward, “It went well… It was nice to get out there and see competition again.” Cobb incurred a minor concussion after being struck in the right ear by an Eric Hosmer line drive on June 15.