Preview: Rays and Jays back at it again, this time at The Trop
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer and Toronto Blue Jays rookie Chris Rowley will face off for a second consecutive start when the American League East rivals open a three-game series Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
Archer (8-7, 3.84 ERA) got through seven innings for the second time since the All-Star break and gave up three runs on five hits with 10 strikeouts in a no-decision against the Blue Jays on Thursday. Unfortunately for Archer, two of the hits he gave up were home runs to former AL MVP Josh Donaldson, and Toronto went on to win 5-3.
Rowley (1-0, 2.61 ERA) is set for just his third career start Tuesday. The right-hander allowed two runs on four hits in five innings during a no-decision against the Rays on Thursday. He struck out three but walked five, which accounted for his high pitch count (90).
Archer has faced the Blue Jays 23 times in his career, producing a 6-4 record with a 3.16 ERA.
Tampa Bay (61-65) is 14-22 since the break, falling into fourth place in the East. The Rays have struggled to score runs during that stretch but began to show signs of breaking out of their slump in the final two games of the weekend series against the Mariners, a 7-6 Seattle win followed by a 3-0 Tampa Bay victory.
“We have to continue to fight and come ready to play every day,” Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said. “We know what this lineup is capable of doing and we’ve had a rough stretch, but we are going to continue battling.”
One guy helping the battle is center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Since returning from the disabled list Friday after missing two months due to a fractured hip, the former Gold Glove winner is 5-for-14 (.357) with a double and a home run.
“When KK is getting good at-bats and getting on base, it’s a big thing for this offense,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We are happy to have him back and we need him right now.”
Despite the recent struggles and the losing record, Tampa Bay is just four games out of the second American League wild-card position.
The Blue Jays (59-65) are only five games out in the wild-card race, but they come into Florida reeling after getting swept by the Chicago Cubs in a three-game weekend series.
Toronto’s 6-5 loss to the Cubs on Sunday might be a tough one to bounce back from after the Blue Jays scored twice in the top of the 10th inning to take a 5-3 lead, only to see it evaporate behind a wild outing from closer Roberto Osuna.
Osuna, who has an major-league-high eight blown saves this season, threw three wild pitches and hit a batter along with giving up two hits, including the game-winner, a bases-loaded single to Alex Avila.
The whole episode left manager John Gibbons almost speechless.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” Gibbons said. “We played hard to get to that point, and I don’t even know how to react, to be honest with you.”
Before the weekend in Chicago, the Blue Jays took three out of four against the Rays in Toronto and were on the verge of getting out of last place.
This is the final series between the teams this year. Toronto holds 9-7 advantage in the season series.