The Rays come home from their most recent road trip, to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a four game series at the Trop, starting Monday. This could be a big series for the Rays who went 4-5 on the road, and could walk into a weekend series against a struggling San Diego Padres with a plus .500 record for the first time this season. Both the 11-21 Toronto Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres have struggled handily this season. And though the Rays have struggled as well, Tampa Bay seems primed to use the up coming series as a spring board of sorts to right the ship, especially from the pitching perspective. In short, if ever there was an opportunity to take advantage of a pair of struggling teams, it is now.
Per Brendan Kennedy of The Star,
This series marks the first between Toronto and Tampa this year. Last season the Jays were 4-14 against the Rays, who have always been a tough opponent for Toronto. Since 2003, the Jays are 78-104 against the Rays. The Jays have particularly struggled at Tropicana Field, their so-called “House of Horrors.” Over the last five years at the Trop, the Jays are 10-35 . . . The Rays have struggled to start the season. Their pitchers, usually among the league’s best, have posted a 4.35 ERA, fourth-highest in the AL behind the Astros, Jays and Angels. The Rays’ bullpen has been the biggest problem, faring better than only the Astros . . . Jays fans will notice some familiar faces in the Rays’ middle infield, currently manned by former Jays Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar. Johnson is hitting .231 with four home runs, while Escobar — who is day to day with a bruised hand — is batting .174 with a .237 on-base-percentage . . . Veteran lefty Mark Buehrle has given up six home runs in his last two starts, increasing his rate of home runs per nine innings to 2.31, the highest in the American League . . . Thursday’s game will pit reigning Cy Young award winners against each other, with R.A. Dickey, the NL winner, going up against David Price, the AL champ.
Rays Hitters Vs. the Blue Jays Series Starters
Mark Buehrle: Per Rotowire, Buehrle pitched 6.2 innings while giving up five earned runs on seven hits in Wednesday’s loss to Boston. He walked three and struck out just one. Buehrle is 8-3 with a 4.19 ERA in 96 2/3 career innings against the Rays, though the last time the Rays faced Buehrle was in 2010 and they absolutely destroyed him. Buehrle posted a 4.2 IP/9 H/6 R/6 ER/1 BB/4 K slash line in that game, having to be pulled early for obvious reasons. The current Rays lineup has posted a combined .318 BA/.344 OBP/.424 SLG/.768 OPS line against the Jays LHP in 85 at-bats. Key match-ups: James Loney (2-6, 2B), Evan Longoria (4-15, 2 2B), Jose Molina (9-24, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Sean Rodriguez (4-7, 2B, RBI).
JA Happ: Per Rotowire, Happ (0-1, 8.68 ERA vs the Rays over the last three years) walked a whopping seven batters and failed to get out of the fourth inning Thursday against Boston, though he was charged with just two runs on three hits — as well as the loss. Happ is another Blue Jays starter for whom the Rays have had success against the last few years, granted 55 at-bats is a relatively small sample size. Posting a combined .309 BA/.381 OBP/.564 SLG/.945 OPS slash line against Happ, the current Rays have been able to tag Happ for eight doubles and eight RBI in a little more than 11 innings of work. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (2-3, 2B), Kelly Johnson (2-10, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Jose Lobaton (1-2, 2B), James Loney (3-6, 2B, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (2-4, 2B, BB), Sean Rodriguez (1-3, RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (3-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB).
Ricky Romero: Per Rotowire, Romero (5-4, 4.57 ERA vs the Rays over the last three years) allowed three runs on three hits, walking three and striking out four over four innings of a 4-0 loss to Seattle on Friday night. Romero has been a thorn in the Rays side in years past, though he is not the same starter who one hit the Rays back in 2011. Romero V2.0 was sent down to the minors to start the season, and is now making his way back into the Blue Jays rotation thanks to an injury in the rotation. Tampa Bay was able to light him up last season, tagging Romero for 14 earned runs in 13 innings of work. Key match-ups: Jose Lobaton (1-3), Evan Longoria (7-24, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 6 BB), Jose Molina (1-1, RBI), Ryan Roberts (1-1, 2B), Ben Zobrist (9-30, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 5 BB).
RA Dickey: Per Rotowire, Dickey gave up seven runs over six innings in Saturday’s 8-1 loss to the Mariners. Tampa Bay faced Dickey last season, in a game where the Rays were only able to get one lonely hit off the knuckle-baller. Fast forward to 2013, Dickey — like fellow Cy Young Award winner David Price — has been very hittable, giving up 18 earned runs in 36 innings of work. In fact, Dickey has given up three or more runs in five of his seven starts. It will be interesting to see how both Cy Young Award Winners fare against one another Thursday night. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (1-3, 2B).
- Splitsville, USA. When comparing the Rays 2013 L/R splits to 2012, one thing becomes glaringly obvious: though the Rays haven’t deviated from how they hit righties, they have made a killing of sorts against left handed pitching. Tampa Bay has posted a combined .275 BA/.333 OBP/.421 SLG/.754 OPS/.310 wOBA/.146 ISO slash line up to this point. Compare that with their combined .238 BA/.316 OBP/.398 SLG/.714 OPS/.312 wOBA/.158 ISO slash line from 2012. The increase in production is palpable. Tampa Bay has averaged 4.4 runs per game so far this season…a more consistent 4+ runs per game at that.
- Per Stats Inc, The Blue Jays (11-21) had lost four in a row and 14 of 18 before a 10-2 home win over Seattle on Sunday. It was the most lopsided victory of the year for the team with the AL’s second-worst record, as Toronto matched its highest-scoring game of 2013 and had a season-best 15 hits.
- Per Marc Topkin, even with Sunday’s win they (Toronto) have lost 14 of 19 and have a run differential of minus-28 in that span.
- The Jays went 23 innings without a run last week, and scored one or none in four straight games until Sunday’s 10-run outburst.
- Toronto hasn’t won a series against Tampa Bay since August of 2010, with the Rays going 30-12 in meetings since then. Tampa Bay won last year’s series 14-4. Evan Longoria hit .360 with 14 RBIs in 13 of those games.
- While the Rays are 6-12 away from home, Tampa Bay 8-4 in St. Petersburg where they’ll kick off a 10-game homestand. They’ve allowed no more than one run in six of the last nine at Tropicana Field.