Rays-Blue Jays Preview
The Toronto Blue Jays own a winning record against every AL East opponent but the team with the best ERA in the division – the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi has shackled the Blue Jays in the past and is one of baseball’s best pitchers against right-handed hitters as he gets the start Friday night in Toronto.
Toronto (45-46) looks to improve upon a 3-7 mark against Tampa Bay in the opener of a three-game set. The Blue Jays average a major league-best 5.3 runs, but that figure is down to 3.5 in the season series against a Rays team with a 3.56 ERA.
Odorizzi (5-5, 2.30 ERA) gave up one run and two hits in eight innings April 13 to earn a 2-1 win over the Blue Jays, improving to 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in four matchups.
He is limiting right-handed hitters to a .180 average to rank fifth in the majors. Jose Bautista is hitless in nine at-bats against him, Edwin Encarnacion is 1 for 8 and Josh Donaldson is 0 for 5.
No Toronto batter has more than one hit against Odorizzi, with the switch-hitting Jose Reyes 1 for 10.
Odorizzi lasted 5 2-3 innings Saturday to pick up a 3-0 victory over Houston in his first outing since June 5 after being out with a strained left oblique.
"Nice to have Odo back," manager Kevin Cash said.
That was part of a three-game sweep in which Tampa Bay (46-45) allowed four runs. The series came after the Rays had dropped 11 of 12.
”Any time we can get a series sweep like this on the way into a break, it feels good for everybody in here,” pitcher Matt Moore said.
The Rays are fifth-worst in the majors with 3.7 runs per game, though they have averaged 4.6 against the Blue Jays. Evan Longoria is 14 for 32 in the season series and Kevin Kiermaier is 13 for 34.
Kiermaier is 4 for 7 against Toronto starter Drew Hutchison (8-2, 5.33) while Longoria is 1 for 13.
Hutchison will be happy to be at home, where he has a 2.12 ERA compared to his major league-worst 8.81 mark on the road. The right-hander has yielded one earned run over 26 2-3 innings in winning his last four outings at Rogers Centre.
He is off to a rough start this month, going 0-1 with an 8.38 ERA in two road starts after allowing four runs in five innings July 8 in a 7-6, 11-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Hutchison yielded three runs in five innings June 22 in an 8-5 win over the Rays, improving to 3-2 with a 6.16 ERA against them.
His 7.81 run-support average is baseball’s best mark.
Bautista and Donaldson are tied for third in the AL with 60 RBIs. Donaldson is expected back after the flu kept him out of Sunday’s 11-10 loss at Kansas City.
Bautista opted out of the All-Star Game to rest and rehab his sore right shoulder, which flared up in Chicago from July 6-9.
"Normally you would need a few days off during the regular season," he said. "I’m taking advantage of this due to the break. It’s the smart thing for me to do for my health and to the end of the season.”