Blue Jays-Rays Preview

A major eruption by the Toronto Blue Jays’ powerful offense

evened their series with the Tampa Bay Rays, but they’ve been

unable to break through in past meetings with David Price.

Tampa Bay’s standout left-hander looks to improve to 6-0 in his

career against the Blue Jays as the teams decide their three-game

set Wednesday night in St. Petersburg.

The Rays (81-51) slipped one game behind AL East-leading New

York after Toronto (69-63) scored 10 runs in the sixth inning of

its 13-5 win Tuesday night.

Jose Bautista’s major league-leading 43rd home run was one of

the Blue Jays’ three homers in the game, raising the team’s

MLB-high total to 201 – the second time in team history they’ve had

200 homers by the end of August.

Aaron Hill added a homer for the second straight game for

Toronto, which had its biggest inning since an 11-run sixth July

25, 2007, at Minnesota.

“They can really strike quick,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

“That’s what they do. That’s who they are.”

Toronto has split its 14 meetings with the wild card-leading

Rays this season, but has been held to three or fewer runs in 10 of

those games, frustrated by a staff that ranks second in the AL with

a 3.70 ERA.

“We have a tough time with those guys,” Blue Jays manager Cito

Gaston said. “Anytime we can score that many runs off that team

it’s always nice.”

Price (15-6, 3.01 ERA) has managed to quiet Toronto’s bats,

going 5-0 with a 2.09 ERA in six career starts against the Blue

Jays. This season, he has allowed one earned run – and no homers –

in 23 innings, winning all three outings.

While Price has already set Tampa Bay’s single-season franchise

record for victories, he’s looking to bolster a potential Cy Young

Award candidacy with his first win since Aug. 9.

The 25-year-old southpaw has posted a 4.26 ERA and received

limited run support in his last three outings, including a 3-1 loss

to Boston on Friday. Price allowed a season-high 10 hits, including

two solo home runs by Victor Martinez.

“He’s a good hitter,” Price said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s

part of it. You move on.”

He can do that by beating Toronto’s Shaun Marcum (11-7, 3.61)

for the third time this year.

Entering this season, Marcum was 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in four

outings against Tampa Bay, but the right-hander has yielded 12 runs

and 20 hits in 12 1-3 innings while losing his two 2010 matchups

with Price and the Rays.

Marcum has been sharp lately, holding opponents to a .167

average while issuing three walks over 22 innings in his last three

starts. He’s 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in that stretch.

He can help Toronto win a series at Tropicana Field for the

first time since April 6-8, 2007, but beating Tampa Bay has been a

difficult task for most opposing pitchers lately. The Rays averaged

more than five runs while winning 12 of 17 to close August.

They may get a boost from some new additions with rosters set to

expand Wednesday. Outfielder Rocco Baldelli, who began his major

league career with the Rays in 2003, is expected to return to the

club and see his first big league action of 2010.