Blue Jays-Rays Preview

One of the biggest comebacks in team history helped the Toronto
Blue Jays earn a rare victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

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.

“It’s a difficult loss, no question,” said manager Joe Maddon,
whose team built a 7-0 lead behind Evan Longoria’s grand slam and
Luke Scott’s two-run shot. “But it’s about how we react
tomorrow.”

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.