Rays, happy to hit road, take on resurgent Jays (Aug 14, 2017)
TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are home and enjoying it.
The Tampa Bay Rays are leaving home and are glad of it.
It is all in the way the teams are playing.
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By defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 on Sunday afternoon, the Blue Jays have won two consecutive series and four of their first six games on a 10-game homestand.
The Rays, however, completed a 2-7 homestand Sunday with a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
The American League East rivals open a four-game series Monday night at the Rogers Centre.
The Rays will send out right-hander Jake Odorizzi (6-5, 4.38 ERA) in the opener against Blue Jays right-hander Nick Tepesch (0-2, 9.00).
“Maybe it’s a good thing we’re out of here for four days and heading to Toronto,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said following the loss to the Indians on Sunday at Tropicana Field.
The Rays (59-60) dropped below .500, and they are two games out of the second American League wild-card spot.
They were 51-44 on July 18, two games out of first place in the AL East.
The Rays were shut out five times on their homestand, the first time in franchise history that they had been blanked five times in a span of eight games.
The Blue Jays (56-61) have a remote chance of making a push for a postseason spot. They are four games out of the second AL wild-card spot.
“We’re not that far out of it,” said Toronto infielder Ryan Goins, who had a two-run double and a steal of home Sunday. “We’re only four games back right now, so if we can put together a good stretch, we might have a chance at the end.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who earned his 700th win Sunday, does not pretend to know what it would take.
“I mean, I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows, just go out there and run this thing out and see where we end up,” he said. “We’re playing good baseball.”
Gibbons is 700-675 as Toronto’s manager.
The opener will be a challenge for the Blue Jays based on the pitching matchup.
Tepesch is a stop-gap addition to the rotation. He will be make his second start for the Blue Jays.
It will be only his third outing in the majors this season, including a May 6 loss to the Boston Red Sox when he was with the Minnesota Twins.
In a loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday, Tepesch allowed eight hits, including three solo home runs, and five runs in 4 1/3 innings. Gibbons felt that he had done enough to earn another start, and the Blue Jays have few other options.
Tepesch is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in two career starts against the Rays.
Odorizzi will be facing Toronto for the fourth time this season. He is 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in his three previous starts, two at home.
He is 5-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 14 career starts against the Blue Jays and is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in eight career starts at Rogers Centre.
In his start against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, Odorizzi lasted four innings, leaving with a foot contusion. He allowed four hits, two walks and two runs (one earned) while striking out two.
The Rays and Blue Jays are 6-6 in their season series. The Blue Jays are 3-2 against the Rays at the Rogers Centre.
“We have to move past (the slump) quickly,” Cash said. “Because every game is kind of pivotal-swing games. And we’ve got to take advantage of going and playing good baseball. … We needed to play better over that stretch. We did not. It doesn’t burn us or kill us, but we definitely have to make up for it now. …
“We’ve had some good ballgames up in Toronto. We always seem to play them pretty tough. That’s what we’re looking for, because there’s no doubt we’ve put ourselves a little behind the 8-ball. We have to turn it around. A couple of wins will go a long way.”