Blue Jays-Rays Preview

One of the biggest comebacks in team history helped the Toronto

Blue Jays earn a rare victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Winning two straight at St. Petersburg for the first time in

nearly five years could be difficult if Blue Jays left-hander J.A.

Happ struggles again with his control.

Happ will try to rebound from one of the worst starts of his

career Tuesday night when Toronto goes for a season-best third

consecutive victory.

Losers of 17 straight road series to the Rays (14-17) – the

third-longest streak in AL history by one team in an opponent’s

ballpark – the Blue Jays (12-21) rallied from seven down after

three innings to win 8-7 in Monday’s opener. They ended a five-game

skid to Tampa Bay and an 0-8 stretch at Tropicana Field.

It was also the fifth time in team history – and first since

rallying from seven down in a 12-11 home win over the Rays on June

5, 2007 – that Toronto was victorious after trailing by seven or

more.

“That’s the way this game is, and you’ve got to continue to stay

positive and come ready to play every day,” said catcher J.P.

Arencibia, whose two-run homer off Fernando Rodney with two outs

and two strikes in the ninth was the difference.

Arencibia wasn’t pleased about manager John Gibbons giving Henry

Blanco the start behind the plate Monday, but he’ll most likely be

there Tuesday when Happ (2-2, 3.98) toes the rubber.

The left-hander only allowed two runs but walked a career

high-tying seven and was pulled after 3 2-3 innings in his last

outing, Thursday’s 3-1 loss to Boston.

“He’s the type of pitcher where he pitches up in the zone and

sometimes he loses (his release point),” Gibbons said of the

southpaw, whose 1.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio would be among the

majors’ worst if he had enough innings to qualify.

The Rays will try to send the Blue Jays to a fifth consecutive

loss with Happ pitching, while attempting to avoid their first set

of back-to-back home losses this season.

“It’s a difficult loss, no question,” said manager Joe Maddon,

whose team built a 7-0 lead behind Evan Longoria’s grand slam and

Luke Scott’s two-run shot. “But it’s about how we react

tomorrow.”

Tampa Bay hopes Roberto Hernandez (1-4, 5.28) reacts well to his

first start in nearly two weeks. The right-hander, whose turn was

skipped Thursday when the game in Kansas City was postponed due to

weather, was tagged for a career-high three homers in a 5-4 road

loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 26. He matched a season high

with five runs allowed.

Formerly known as Fausto Carmona, Hernandez is 3-1 with a 4.54

ERA in six starts versus Toronto, the last coming two years ago

while with Cleveland.

The right-hander will face a Blue Jays team that’s totaled 18

runs and 27 hits in consecutive wins after plating three runs while

losing its previous four.

The Rays’ lineup, and defense up the middle, could get a boost

Tuesday. Second baseman Ben Zobrist is expected to come off the

bereavement list, and shortstop Yunel Escobar, a former Blue Jay

who pinch hit Monday, may start for the first time since getting

hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday.

Tampa Bay last dropped two straight at home in this AL East

matchup on July 20 and Aug. 26, 2008. Toronto had lost 21 of 27

overall to the Rays entering this series.