Blue Jays-Rays Preview

Toronto’s J.A. Happ has certainly had to deal with his share of

adversity this season, and now he’ll return to the place where his

year was turned upside down.

The Blue Jays left-hander takes the mound at Tropicana Field on

Saturday night for the first time since early May, when one of the

most frightening incidents of the major league season occurred

there against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Happ (2-2, 5.11 ERA) suffered a skull fracture and sprained

right knee when he fell to the ground after being struck in the

head by a line drive off the bat of Rays outfielder Desmond

Jennings on May 7.

After missing three months, Happ makes his third start since

returning from the disabled list as he tries to keep the Rays

(69-51) from winning their fourth in a row.

Tampa Bay has also won four straight and six of seven over the

AL East-worst Blue Jays (56-66) after Jose Lobaton hit a

game-ending triple in the ninth inning for a 5-4 victory in

Friday’s opener.

Rays manager Joe Maddon is one person looking forward to Happ’s

return, particularly after Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb pitched

well in his comeback Thursday from a similar incident.

“It’s good for (Happ),” Maddon told the league’s official

website. “It’s the same thing Cobber did. You have to start riding

the horse again. It’s horrible. I wish him well. It’s something he

has to do for himself, and it’s tough.”

Happ had to pitch with a heavy heart Monday, allowing one run

and three hits over a season-high seven innings in a 5-1 loss to

Oakland just days after the death of his grandfather. He also

matched a season high with six strikeouts but did not factor in the


Happ will attempt to build on that performance versus the Rays,

though he’s 0-1 with a 10.97 ERA in three career starts against

them. He was tagged for four runs and five hits in 1 1-3 innings

before getting injured in May.

James Loney is 4 for 7 when facing Happ and is batting .370

during a seven-game hitting streak against the Blue Jays. Jennings

will miss this meeting with a broken left middle finger and is

expected to return next week.

Since batting .204 with runners in scoring position during a

six-game losing streak, the Rays have gone 10 for 28 in those

situations over their last three games. They pulled within one game

of the East lead as the Yankees beat first-place Boston 10-3 on


Tampa Bay gives the ball to right-hander Roberto Hernandez

(6-12, 4.95), who hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in his

last two starts. He matched a season high by allowing five earned

runs and eight hits over four innings in a 5-0 loss at Dodger

Stadium last Saturday.

“He didn’t have really good stuff,” Maddon said. “He told me the

ball was not moving like it normally does for him and it was kind

of flat.”

The Rays have dropped both his starts versus the Blue Jays,

though Hernandez has held Toronto to four runs and 11 hits – three

homers – over 14-plus innings.

Adam Lind has homered twice when facing Hernandez this season

and is 5 for 13 lifetime against him. He had two hits Friday,

raising his average to .175 (7 for 40) versus the Rays this


Teammate Brett Lawrie went 2 for 5 in the opener and is batting

.421 since Aug. 1.