Preview: Rays begin final series of road trip on Labor Day against Blue Jays

TV: FOX Sports Sun

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.


TORONTO — The Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays are going to see a lot of each other in September, starting Monday night at the Rogers Centre.

If it seems like the Rays and the Jays were playing at the Rogers Centre only a short time ago, it is because they were.

It was only three weeks ago when the Rays won two games from the Blue Jays in a three-game series Aug. 10-12.

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Through a scheduling quirk, they will be back at it again starting Monday with a three-game series as Toronto’s Marcus Stroman (4-8, 5.27 ERA) will come off the disabled list (right middle finger blister) to start for the first time since Aug. 17. The Rays had not named their starter for Monday night.

And if Toronto fans have not seen enough of the Rays, the teams will be playing again in a four-game series Sept. 20-23. Then the teams will return to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a three-game series Sept. 28-30 at Tropicana Field that will complete the season.

Not that everything is the same with the teams. The Blue Jays, for instance, made two trades on Friday. They sent third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has been injured for most of the season, to the Cleveland Indians and outfielder Curtis Granderson to the Milwaukee Brewers. Those teams have postseason aspirations and the Blue Jays are rebuilding, or transitioning.

Both teams are coming off victories.

The Blue Jays (62-74) enter the series against the Rays after a 6-1 victory Sunday over the Miami Marlins to complete a 2-4 road trip that included being swept in a three-game series by the Baltimore Orioles.

The Rays (73-63) defeated the Indians 6-4 on Sunday in the rubber match of a three-game series at Progressive Field. They have won 11 of their past 13 games to go a season-best 10 games above .500.

Stroman allowed five runs in four innings at Yankee Stadium before going on the DL with a blister problem that has been hampering him for quite some time.

His previous start, on Aug. 12, was the only one he has made against the Rays this season. He allowed one run and five hits in five innings in a no-decision, a game the Blue Jays won 2-1.

In 12 career starts against the Rays, Stroman is 5-4 with a 4.20 ERA.

In a rubber match with the Miami Marlins on Sunday, Sean Reid-Foley struck out 10 in a seven-inning outing for his first win in his third major league start. He is the first Blue Jays starter to pitch seven innings since Aug. 22.

Starting pitching has been a weak spot for the Blue Jays lately and has been a disappointment most of the season.

“Our starting pitching has been getting hit around pretty good the past 10 days or so and gets us behind the eight ball,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after a loss on Saturday. “Hopefully, we can get that ironed out. We need to get that taken care of.”

Smoak, who entered the game Sunday in the bottom of the ninth as a defensive replacement, has hit home runs in each of the past four games that he has had a plate appearance. Kendrys Morales, who started at first base Sunday, recently cot completed a seven-game home run streak.

The Rays made a move before their game Sunday, recalling infielder-outfielder Andrew Velazquez from Triple-A Durham. Right-hander Jose Mujica (undisclosed injury) was recalled from Durham and was moved to the 60-day DL.

With regular center fielder Kevin Kiermaier sitting out Sunday after leaving the game Saturday in the seventh inning with back spasms, Velazquez entered the game Sunday in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement in center field.

Kiermaier said he was available off the bench Sunday and hopes to return to the lineup on Monday.

Rays outfielder Mallex Smith (viral infection) is expected to be activated from the DL when eligible on Monday.

Tampa Bay first baseman-outfielder Jake Bauers was 0-for-3 with a walk Sunday and is 4-for-58 since Aug. 10.

“This isn’t the worst thing for him,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s 22. He’s going to be fine. I know he’s scuffling. To be able to get to the offseason, we want to see him get there on a high note.

“But at the same time, if he’s able to do that, he’s going to look back and say, ‘Hey, I had maybe the roughest patch of my career and I was able to kind of weather the storm.’

“I think that means something, especially to some young guys. I don’t think it would be smart for us to run from him. He’s part of our future.”