The Tampa Bay Rays may be last in the American League East, and second-to-last in the AL, but they have won six of of their last 10 games against the Blue Jays this season, including a three-game sweep in mid-May. They’ll take that success into Toronto where they’ll take on the second best team in the AL East, starting Monday.
Tampa Bay lost 6-3 Sunday in the series finale against the Minnesota Twins, completing a 6-4 homestand that included a three-game sweep of the Evil Empire.
In spite of their 45-65 overall record (50-60 Pythagorean Expectation, 55-55 BaseRuns), they are 11-11 since the All -Star break, and have been pitching well — allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of their past 13 games.
The Blue Jays are returning from a 4-3 road trip against the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals without much, if any, offensive production. Toronto was outscored 19-17 over the seven games and batted .138 with runners in scoring position.
They haven’t scored more than four runs in a game since July 30 when they plated nine against the Baltimore Orioles, who have one-game lead over the Blue Jays (63-49) in the AL East.
Kevin Cash will throw Jake Odorizzi (6-5, 3.70 ERA), Drew Smyly (3-11, 5.14 ERA), and Blake Snell (3-4, 2.95 ERA) over the next three days. John Gibbons will counter with RA Dickey (8-12, 4.49 ERA), Marco Estrada (7-4, 2.92 ERA), and JA Happ (15-3, 3.09 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Odorizzi posted a six inning shutout against the Royals on Wednesday, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out six. That makes three consecutive scoreless outings for the righty, and he’s gone at least six frames each time.
Smyly pitched seven quality innings in a no-decision against the Royals on Thursday, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out 10. After a rough first half of the season, the southpaw appears to have turned a corner. He’s now collected three straight quality starts for the first time since April, and his 5.14 ERA — although still bloated — is down to its lowest mark since June 20.
Snell turned in another solid outing on Friday, striking out seven while giving up just one earned run on four hits and two walks over 5-1/3 innings. The southpaw threw 97 pitches by the sixth, leading to his early exit, however, Snell was still impressive — inducing 12 swinging strikes and putting together a fifth straight start with no more than two earned runs allowed. He also didn’t allow a homer for the fourth time in his last five turns, giving up just two over 55 innings this season.
Blue Jays Series Starters
Dickey gave up just one run on six hits over seven innings in a win on Tuesday against the Astros. The knuckleballer struck out five. Dickey snapped a three-game losing skid with his outing, his first quality start since July 10 against the Royals. Dickey had full control over his repertoire and didn’t walk a batter. Free passes were a huge problem over his losing streak, as he walked nine batters and hit three more in just 14-2/3 innings. He is 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay this season, and 8-9 with a 4.33 ERA against the Rays overall. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (2-6, 2 2B, 2 BB), Logan Forsythe (6-23, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (14-49, 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-11, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
Estrada held the Astros to four hits and a single run over seven strong innings on Wednesday. He struck out seven. Even though he’s been effective overall, July was his worst month of the season (4.24 ERA), and he hadn’t allowed fewer than two runs in an outing since May 30. Estrada is fifth among all big league starters in WHIP at 0.99, outperforming Chris Sale, Jake Arrieta and Madison Bumgarner. The fastball/curveball/changeup/cutter throwing righty is 1-1 with a 0.86 ERA over three starts (and 31-1/3 innings) against the Rays. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (3-3, RBI), Logan Forsythe (3-8, 2B)
Happ fanned six over six innings Thursday in Houston, surrendering just one run on four hits and a walk en route to a 4-1 win. Happ’s become unbeatable in his age 33 season — Toronto hasn’t lost one of his starts since June 6, earning a win in nine of his 10 outings over that span. He’s been really good of late, allowing one run or fewer in five of his last six starts. Be that as it may, Happ is 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season, and 2-3 with a 5.37 ERA overall against Tampa Bay. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (4-10, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (5-19, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Evan Longoria (10-26, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Brad Miller (2-3), Steven Souza Jr. (5-11, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI)