Blue Jays-Rays Preview
Winning two straight at St. Petersburg for the first time in nearly five years could be difficult if Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ struggles again with his control.
Happ will try to rebound from one of the worst starts of his career Tuesday night when Toronto goes for a season-best third consecutive victory.
Losers of 17 straight road series to the Rays (14-17) - the third-longest streak in AL history by one team in an opponent's ballpark - the Blue Jays (12-21) rallied from seven down after three innings to win 8-7 in Monday's opener. They ended a five-game skid to Tampa Bay and an 0-8 stretch at Tropicana Field.
It was also the fifth time in team history - and first since rallying from seven down in a 12-11 home win over the Rays on June 5, 2007 - that Toronto was victorious after trailing by seven or more.
"That's the way this game is, and you've got to continue to stay positive and come ready to play every day," said catcher J.P. Arencibia, whose two-run homer off Fernando Rodney with two outs and two strikes in the ninth was the difference.
Arencibia wasn't pleased about manager John Gibbons giving Henry Blanco the start behind the plate Monday, but he'll most likely be there Tuesday when Happ (2-2, 3.98) toes the rubber.
The left-hander only allowed two runs but walked a career high-tying seven and was pulled after 3 2-3 innings in his last outing, Thursday's 3-1 loss to Boston.
"He's the type of pitcher where he pitches up in the zone and sometimes he loses (his release point)," Gibbons said of the southpaw, whose 1.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio would be among the majors' worst if he had enough innings to qualify.
The Rays will try to send the Blue Jays to a fifth consecutive loss with Happ pitching, while attempting to avoid their first set of back-to-back home losses this season.
Tampa Bay hopes Roberto Hernandez (1-4, 5.28) reacts well to his first start in nearly two weeks. The right-hander, whose turn was skipped Thursday when the game in Kansas City was postponed due to weather, was tagged for a career-high three homers in a 5-4 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 26. He matched a season high with five runs allowed.
Formerly known as Fausto Carmona, Hernandez is 3-1 with a 4.54 ERA in six starts versus Toronto, the last coming two years ago while with Cleveland.
The right-hander will face a Blue Jays team that's totaled 18 runs and 27 hits in consecutive wins after plating three runs while losing its previous four.
The Rays' lineup, and defense up the middle, could get a boost Tuesday. Second baseman Ben Zobrist is expected to come off the bereavement list, and shortstop Yunel Escobar, a former Blue Jay who pinch hit Monday, may start for the first time since getting hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday.
Tampa Bay last dropped two straight at home in this AL East matchup on July 20 and Aug. 26, 2008. Toronto had lost 21 of 27 overall to the Rays entering this series.