After dropping a series against the Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays look to finish the home portion of their schedule on a high note, when they welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop for a four-game set starting Thursday. The Blue Jays are coming off a two-game series split against the Phillies.

At 82-67 on the season, the Rays enter play 15 games above .500 and reeling from a 4-6 stretch of play. Because of losses by Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Seattle, Tampa Bay still maintains a 0.5-game hold on the second AL Wildcard spot, two games behind Blue Jays for the top spot in the Wildcard race.

The Rays’ offense did not exist against Houston … and this, after they put up 13 runs against the Rangers in the previous series. Tampa Bay went scoreless through the first two contests and well into the series finale against Houston. And then when they finally took a late lead, Brooks Raley gave up the first three earned runs he’d surrendered since the middle of August.

Meanwhile, after rattling off three wins against the Rays, Toronto won their series against Baltimore, then put up 18 runs against the Phillies in the first game of a two-game series. This, despite falling 4-3 in the series finale on Wednesday.

Tampa Bay had a difficult time against the Blue Jays a little more than a week ago, and since then, the Blue Jays have performed to a .293 BA/.351 OBP/.495 SLG/.846 OPS with a .202 ISO (shocker, I know) and a 141 wRC+. However, it wasn’t the pitching that gave up the ghost in the great white north, but rather an offense that struggled against Toronto’s arms. There had been some offensive improvement since, although that 101 wRC+ performance was veiled by their most recent series blunder. It certainly didn’t help that both Randy Arozarena and Yandy Díaz were out of the lineup for a time due to, ahem … off-field activities. Let’s hope they got that out of their system.

Tampa Bay starts this series at 8-7 against the Blue Jays and needs a pair of victories to win the season series at the very least. They can also flip the AL Wildcard standings again with some W’s. You would love to see the Rays eke out a series win to cap the home schedule, but they’ll take what they can get. Accept the best, expect the worst as it were.

Pitching Probables

Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will turn to Ryan Yarbrough (2-8, 4.33 ERA) likely behind an opener, Jeffrey Springs (9-4, 2.45 ERA), Drew Rasmussen (10-6, 2.92 ERA), and Shane McClanahan (12-6, 2.36 ERA). John Schneider will counter with José Berríos (11-5, 4.99 ERA), a pitcher to be named before Friday’s contest, Alek Manoah (14-7, 2.40 ERA), and Ross Stripling (8-4, 3.21 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough covered three innings out of the bullpen on the 17th. He struck out two and gave up one run on four hits (including a homer) while walking one. Yarbrough has been much better of late, performing to a 3.04 ERA and a 4.07 FIP in the second half, with a 1.21 WHIP and a 3.60 K/BB. In 13.0 innings against the Blue Jays this season, the left-hander has given up six runs on 11 hits (including three home runs) while striking out three.

José Berríos allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings against the Orioles on Saturday. He struck out three. Berríos surrendered a two-run single to Gunnar Henderson to cut Baltimore’s deficit to one in the third. The right-hander’s last nine starts have been inconsistent, as he has allowed four or more runs in three of them and two earned runs or fewer in the other six. Berríos has thrown six innings or more in six of those games and four innings or fewer in two. Overall, he maintains a 4.99 ERA and a 4.64 FIP, with a 1.38 WHIP and a 3.49 K/BB. Across 11.1 innings (two starts) against the Rays this season, Berríos has given up four runs (three earned) on 14 hits and three walks. Key Matchups: Jonathan Aranda (1-3, RBI), Randy Arozarena (2-6), Ji-Man Choi (4-14, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Manuel Margot (2-8, 2B, 2 RBI), Rene Pinto (1-3, RBI), Harold Ramírez (3-11, 2B, RBI), José Siri (1-3)

Jeffrey Springs allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and no walks while striking out six across 5.2 innings against the Rangers on Sunday. Springs held the opposition scoreless over his first three outings in September, although he was slightly less effective during Sunday’s outing. However, he’s posted a 0.89 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 20.1 innings over four September starts. He held the Blue Jays scoreless across 10.2 innings (two starts) this season.


Drew Rasmussen allowed four runs on six hits and one walk while striking out three batters across six innings on Monday against Houston. Rasmussen served up a leadoff homer to Jose Altuve, but he limited Houston to that one run through five frames. However, they tagged him for three runs in the sixth inning, which was more than enough during a game in which the Rays were shut out. Rasmussen has given up eight earned runs in his last two starts, resulting in his first two-game losing streak of the Season. Overall, he’s pitched to a strong 2.92 ERA and a 3.25 FIP, with a 1.07 WHIP, and a 4.03 K/BB over 132.2 innings. In four contests against Toronto, Rasmussen has allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 20 hits and six walks.

Alek Manoah allowed a run on four hits and four walks while striking out five in six innings on Sunday against Baltimore. Manoah wasn’t at his best although he navigated trouble to keep Toronto in a position to win. Three consecutive hits in the fourth inning led to the lone run but he settled down after that and retired eight of the last nine batters he faced. He has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last six starts, compiling a 1.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and a 3.08 K/BB in 41 innings in that span. In two starts against the Rays this season, Manoah has given up five runs (three earned) on 10 hits (including two homers) and two walks. Key Matchups: Jonathan Aranda (1-3, HR, RBI), David Peralta (1-3)

Shane McClanahan exited Tuesday’s contest with neck tightness/spasms, although he expects to make his next turn through the rotation. In the outing, McClanahan allowed five runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts over four innings. McClanahan lobbied to stay in the contest but was removed for precautionary reasons, which is understandable given it was only his second start since he returned from the Injured List. Overall, he’s pitched to a 2.36 ERA and a 2.74 KBB, with a 0.90 WHIP, and a 5.43 K/BB over 156.1 innings. McClanahan has been very good against Toronto this season, allowing just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 15.

Ross Stripling allowed five runs on nine hits while striking out three in four innings on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Stripling entered the bottom of the fifth inning with the Blue Jays leading 7-1. In the fifth, he allowed the first five batters to record hits, including Dalton Guthrie’s first big-league blast, before being replaced. The poor showing ended a streak of 13 starts that Stripling did not allow more than three earned runs. He’s allowed six long balls in his last five starts after allowing just two homers in his previous eight turns. Overall, he’s pitched to a 3.21 ERA and a 3.21 KBB, with a 1.03 WHIP, and a 5.25 K/BB over 123.1 innings. Tampa Bay has tagged Stripling for five runs (four earned) on 10 hits (including two homers) across 11.0 combined innings. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (2-8, 5 BB), Manuel Margot (9-23, 3 2B, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Francisco Mejía (2-5, 2B, RBI, BB), Isaac Paredes (2-4, 2B), David Peralta (10-24, 5 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB), Harold Ramírez (3-11, 2 HR, 3 RBI)