The Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop Friday night for a three-game set on the heels of a big 7-1 throttling against the Mariners, Thursday night. Mired in a funk extending back 12-games, the Rays took the series from the Mariners after dropping two consecutive to the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. Tampa Bay upped their per game runs average back to 5.3, while the pitching — especially the bullpen — seems to be coming back around. In short, the series previous gave the impression that Tampa Bay is once again stabilizing, and none too soon — the Red Sox have dropped two in a row, and the Rays have been able to regain some ground in the AL East.
While Alex Cobb made his triumphant return to the mound Thursday night, after incurring a concussion on a line drive comebacker off the bat of Eric Hosmer, JA Happ will be making a return to the mound of sorts as well. Happ, too, was hit by a line drive comebacker at the Trop back in May. In the midst of a 10-game road trip, the Blue Jays will throw knuckleballer RA Dickey on the mound Saturday. Dickey owns a 2.31 ERA at the Trop over his career including a complete-game, two-hit shutout on his last visit.
RA Dickey: Per Rotowire, “Dickey took a no-decision after throwing seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits and added six strikeouts Sunday against the A’s.” Suffice to say, I’m sick of seeing the Rays hit against Dickey.
JA Happ: Per Rotowire, “Happ was placed on the bereavement list Tuesday, after tossing seven innings of one-run ball Monday against the Athletics.” The Rays have put up some good numbers against Happ over his career, posting a combined .357 BA/.422 OBP/.643 SLG/1.065 OPS slash line against in 56 total at-bats. Key match-ups: Sam Fuld (1-4), Desmond Jennings (3-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Jose Lobaton (1-2, 2B), James Loney (4-7, 2B, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (2-4, 2B, RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (2-4, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Ben Zobrist (3-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB).
Todd Redmond: Per Rotowire, “Redmond allowed just three hits and a walk over 5.1 shutout innings Tuesday, but was denied the win. He struck out five in the eventual loss to Boston.” This will be a homecoming of sorts for the 28 year-old RHP — Redmond was drafted in 2004 while attending St. Pete College. Redmond has leaned heavily on his fastball, sinker, and slider this year, though his slider is by in large his most hittable pitch, with batters posting a .302 OBA. He has swing and miss stuff on his slider, though Redmond has given up a pair of homers with that pitch.
- Ex-Jays Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have combined for six home runs in 10 games against their former team this year.
- After going 0-15 prior to Wednesday night’s game, Wil Myers will look to continue to brutalize the baseball as he has the last two days. Consider that the Rays rookie has gone 4-10 with two doubles, a homer, three runs, and six RBI since Wednesday. I’d reckon that the tandem of Zobrist/Myers/Longo is pretty deadly!
- Speaking of Zobrist/Myers/Loney/Longo tandem over the last three games: 13-42 (.309 BA), four doubles, a triple, four homers, eight runs, and twelve runs batted in.
- The Blue Jays have scored two runs or fewer in three of their last four.
- Per Marc Topkin, “Since an 11-game winning streak that got them to a season-high two games over .500, the underachieving Jays were 17-29 going into Thursday’s play. The main problem is a pitching staff that posted a 4.97 ERA, second highest in the majors, over that span and an MLB-most 59 homers. Overall their starters have an MLB-worst 5.09 ERA. Injuries have been an issue, with RHP Josh Johnson out again. The offense remains dangerous, however, with the dynamic duo of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the middle, and Jose Reyes back. Also INF Brett Lawrie is hot. OFs Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera are on the DL.”
- Rays lead 8-5 this season, 4-3 at Trop. Rays lead 144-126 overall; 81-53 at Trop.