Blue Jays-Rays Preview
A week filled with missed opportunities has not helped the Tampa
Bay Rays’ quest to reach the postseason. Facing Toronto’s Ricky
Romero might further dampen their playoff hopes.
The Rays continue their pursuit of the AL wild card while trying
to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to the Blue Jays ace Saturday
night at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (86-71) was riding high after taking three of four at
Boston last weekend to move within two games of the wild-card
leading Red Sox. However, while the Red Sox followed by losing
three of four to last-place Baltimore, the Rays dropped three of
four at Yankee Stadium and fell 5-1 to Toronto on Friday. They now
find themselves 2 1/2 games behind Boston, which had its Friday
game in New York postponed by rain.
“It’s not going to be easy. It hasn’t been easy, and that’s
OK,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re learning a lot of
lessons about ourselves right now.”
With five games remaining and the Los Angeles Angels also in the
wild-card picture, Tampa Bay’s margin for error is getting
“Come back (Saturday) and get back on the right track,” Maddon
said. “We’re running out of time, but there is time. We’ve got to
come back play our normal game.”
After pounding out 17 hits in a 15-8 win at New York on
Thursday, the Rays managed only two hits from Matt Joyce and one
from Casey Kotchman as they dropped their second straight to
Toronto (80-77) following a five-game winning streak in the
Joyce is 8 for 19 with six RBIs in his last six games, but 0 for
9 against Romero (15-10, 2.98 ERA).
The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and won three straight
starts versus Tampa Bay this season. He was stellar in his only
start at Tropicana Field this year when the only hit he allowed
over eight innings was a homer to Desmond Jennings in a 3-1 win
Trying to set a career high for victories in his final start of
2011, Romero is 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA in his last 11 starts. He gave
up a pair of home runs in nine innings of a 3-2, 10-inning win over
the Angels on Monday.
“I feel strong. I feel about as strong as I did opening day,”
Scheduled Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann (11-7, 3.95) has not
felt physically strong of late after he was scratched from his
intended start Thursday in New York with back stiffness. He’s
healthy enough to take the ball looking for his third straight
winning start in this contest.
“This is not a drastic change for anything, and it will give me
two extra days,” Niemann told the Rays’ official website. “It’s
just something that kind of crept up. It’s just part of the
Niemann has allowed two runs in each of his last two starts, the
most recent over five innings of a 4-3 win at Boston last Saturday.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA against Toronto this
Kelly Johnson, 2 for 6 versus Niemann, homered and drove in two
runs Friday for the Blue Jays, who have won 11 of 17. The veteran
second baseman is 8 for 19 with four RBIs in his last five