Blue Jays-Rays Preview
Manager Joe Maddon figured bringing a reptile into his team’s
clubhouse would spark the struggling Tampa Bay Rays in their
pursuit to regain the AL East lead.
What he’ll do to try and prevent Toronto Blue Jays starter R.A.
Dickey from another stellar performance at Tropicana Field remains
to be seen.
Tampa Bay looks to beat visiting Toronto for the fourth straight
time as the clubs begin a three-game set Friday night.
Maddon, whose club had lost six straight prior to beating
Seattle 5-4 on Wednesday, presented his team with a 20-foot python
prior to Thursday’s series finale, with most players avoiding
touching the snake.
“In doing our research, my personal research, 2013 happens to be
the year of the snake on the Chinese calendar,” Maddon said. “We
needed a little bit of motivation within the clubhouse. And then
furthermore, you find out that it’s representative of risk taking
and creative thinking. I thought it fit in perfectly with what
we’re trying to do around here.”
The Rays (68-51) went out and earned a 7-1 victory over the
Mariners behind a two-run homer from Evan Longoria and four RBIs
from rookie Wil Myers. They pulled within two games of the East
lead as Toronto beat first-place Boston 2-1 earlier in the
Maddon may need to pull some more unusual tactics with Dickey
(9-11, 4.46 ERA) pitching on the road, especially at Tropicana
The last time knuckleballer pitched in St. Petersburg, he tossed
a two-hitter and beat the Rays 3-0 on June 26. He’s 2-1 with a 2.15
ERA in four career starts at Tampa Bay, including a one-hitter with
only one unearned run allowed in the ninth inning of a 9-1 victory
while pitching for the New York Mets on June 13, 2012.
Dickey is 5-5 with a 3.08 ERA on the road compared to a 5.79 ERA
in Toronto. He has a 3.86 ERA during a 10-start streak overall of
pitching at least six innings after allowing three runs in seven
frames before the Blue Jays (56-65) fell 6-4 to Oakland on
“That’s what I always (try) to do,” said Dickey, 1-0 with a 1.74
ERA in his last three outings. “Every time out, I try to throw a
Mark Buehrle did just that in Thursday’s victory as Toronto took
two of three from the Red Sox. Pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa’s sacrifice
fly in the seventh broke a 1-all tie.
The Blue Jays have scored two runs or fewer in three of their
last four, but they’ll look to bust out against Tampa starter
Jeremy Hellickson, who is trying to end a dismal stretch.
Hellickson (10-6, 4.93) has lost three straight starts while
posting a 9.75 ERA after giving up four runs and seven hits in
three innings of Sunday’s 8-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s
pitched fewer than five innings in each outing during his skid
after going 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA over his previous seven starts.
”I’m not pitching well,” Hellickson said. “The last two weeks
have been very frustrating, but I’ll be OK.”
The right-hander has been solid against the Blue Jays this
season, though, going 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts. He won
the last two, giving up one hit in seven innings of a 4-1 victory
June 24 before allowing two runs in five frames of a 4-3 win July
Hellickson is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in four career home starts
versus Toronto, but Jose Bautista is 8 for 21 (.391) with three
homers lifetime against him.