TORONT0 — The Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to win a series for the first time this season Sunday when they play the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays’ 4-1 victory over the Rays on Saturday sets up a rubber match in the three-game set on Sunday.
Rays manager Kevin Cash referred to the game Saturday as a “quiet day at the plate” for his team, especially after bashing three home runs in the eighth inning and another in the ninth in a 7-4 comeback win Friday.
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Probably more important for the Blue Jays on Sunday will be the return of Aaron Sanchez, who has not pitched since April 14 because of a blister on the middle finger of his right hand.
The Rays (12-13) will go with Chris Archer.
Tampa Bay is 4-2 against Toronto this season.
“They had the No. 1 fans in the American League last year, as far as attendance-wise,” Archer said on Saturday. “So it’s always a good atmosphere here, it’s always a good club. So I’m looking forward to going out there and facing them.”
The 7-17 Blue Jays have not given their fans much of a chance to make noise this season, but the return of Sanchez should provide some cheer for them.
The 24-year-old, who was 15-2 last season and led the American League with a 3.00 earned-run average, had part of the nail removed from the blistered finger April 18.
He had a side session Friday and declared himself ready to start Sunday.
“Everything was good,” Sanchez said. “Mechanics were good, the ball came out easy. No pain around the finger. No pain around any of the nail. So, it’s back to hopefully the schedule as planned.”
In two starts this season, he is 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA.
“We’re certainly going to be cautious with him,” Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker said. “He hasn’t been in a game in a little bit, obviously, a number of days. We’ll watch him closely, monitor him and we’ll make a decision when the time comes during the course of the game. We don’t expect him to throw 110 pitches.”
Sanchez and Archer have opposed each other already this season — on April 8, at Tropicana Field when both pitched well but did not factor in the decision, a 3-2 Rays victory in 11 innings.
Sanchez allowed four hits, three walks and one run and had six strikeouts in seven innings in that start. He is 1-1 with a 1.27 ERA in 12 career games (four starts) against the Rays. He has held Tampa Bay to 21 hits over 35 1/3 innings and has 32 strikeouts.
Archer allowed three home runs over a span of five batters in the sixth and seventh innings Monday against the Baltimore Orioles, a 6-3 loss. Until then, he had not allowed a home run in his first 30 1/3 innings of the season.
He allowed five hits, three walks and two runs with eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings April 8 against Toronto.
He is 6-4 with a 3.17 ERA in 20 career starts against the Blue Jays. He is 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts at the Rogers Centre. He has allowed two or fewer runs against the Blue Jays in six straight starts and in 11 of his past 12 against them.
Archer leads the majors with 127 starts since June 1, 2013.
The Rays likely will be without right fielder Steven Souza Jr. Sunday after he was hit on the hand by right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning Saturday.
X-rays were negative and the injury has been diagnosed as a contusion of the left hand. He is to be further evaluated and is being listed as day-to-day. He said that he would know more about his playing status Sunday morning.