Blue Jays-Rays Preview
The Tampa Bay Rays have taken another huge step toward catching
the AL wild-card leaders.
With a chance to move into a tie for the league’s final playoff
spot Sunday, the Rays conclude a three-game set with the visiting
Toronto Blue Jays.
Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon both went deep as Tampa Bay (87-71)
rallied from an early two-run deficit to defeat Toronto 6-2 on
Saturday. The Rays’ bullpen threw eight scoreless innings – a team
record for a single game – and manager Joe Maddon’s club took
advantage of a Boston loss earlier in the day to move within 1 1/2
games of the fading Red Sox for the wild-card lead.
Boston, which has dropped six of seven, closes a three-game road
series against the New York Yankees with a doubleheader Sunday.
Tampa Bay could move into a tie with Boston with a victory and a
“I feel real good about our chances, and if we can somehow get
to the playoffs with our pitching staff and our defense, we have a
nice shot at winning,” Damon said. “We can’t control what happens
in the New York-Boston series … We have to worry about what we
can control, and hopefully this is a big pick-me-up.”
In order to continue their push, the Rays will likely need to
get a better effort out of Wade Davis (10-10, 4.55 ERA), who has
been hit hard over his last two starts.
After giving up four runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-2 defeat at
Baltimore on Sept. 14, he allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3
innings of Tuesday’s 5-0 loss at Yankee Stadium.
Davis also struggled during his most recent outing against the
Blue Jays, surrendering six runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings of
a 7-3 road loss Aug. 29.
Getting back to Tropicana Field could make all the difference.
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA in his last eight home
starts, seven of them Tampa Bay victories.
Davis is also 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his last three home starts
against the Blue Jays (80-78).
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista, who hit his MLB-leading 43rd
homer Saturday, is 2 for 17 with one home run lifetime against
Davis. Edwin Encarnacion has also struggled, going 1 for 12.
The Blue Jays will give the ball to Brett Cecil (4-10, 4.56),
who is 0-6 over his last nine outings.
The left-hander missed his scheduled start Sept. 16 after
slicing open his left index finger while cleaning a blender. He
didn’t seem to benefit from the resulting 11-day layoff, yielding
four runs and six hits over a season-low three innings in Tuesday’s
10-6 loss to Los Angeles.
Cecil, 4-2 despite a shaky 4.73 ERA in eight career starts
versus Tampa Bay, surely isn’t looking forward to facing Evan
Longoria, who is 10 for 20 with a homer lifetime against him. In
contrast, B.J. Upton is 3 for 20 off Cecil.