ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash believes his team is capable of another run now that the offense apparently has broken out of a month-long slump.
The Rays (62-65) will go for their third straight victory Wednesday when they face the Toronto Blue Jays in the second contest of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay is four games behind the Minnesota Twins for the final American League wild-card spot but must pass five teams to get there.
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Austin Pruitt (6-4, 5.37 ERA) will make the start for Tampa Bay. the right-hander will have to be better than he was in his most recent outing, when he gave up six runs on 11 hits in seven innings during a loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday.
Pruitt is 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in three previous appearances against the Blue Jays, but this will be his first start vs. Toronto.
“When you see them a lot, you kind of get an idea of how to attack them,” Pruitt said about the Blue Jays to MLB.com. “It can also work against you because they know what you have.”
Tampa Bay has had several players breakout offensively over the last few games, including center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is 7-for-20 since returning from the disabled list, and catcher Wilson Ramos.
On Tuesday, the Rays amassed 12 hits, and even the guys that didn’t have hits made contributions, such as Brad Miller. The struggling second baseman, who is batting .186, drew two walks and scored a run.
“Brad’s coming into the ballpark to work every day and find a way to get going,” Cash said. “I know he’s tinkered with his stance at times. Whether it’s upright, leg kick, hands low/high, whatever … He’s trying everything to find that sweet spot and get the comfort.
“For whatever reason, it hasn’t come. He’s had some good swings and some good at-bats where he’s drawn walks, but I know Brad more than anybody, and he’s itching to get some big hits.”
Toronto (59-66) will send Marcus Stroman (11-6, 2.99 ERA) to the mound in an effort to stop a four-game losing streak.
Stroman’s last start came against the Rays on Aug. 16, and he earned the win while giving up two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He is 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA in 10 career starts versus Tampa Bay.
The Blue Jays hope Josh Donaldson keeps swinging a hot bat against the Rays. He hit a home run Tuesday and has five in the past five games against the AL East rival.
Toronto manager John Gibbons moved Donaldson to shortstop, switching Jose Bautista to third from right field in order to get Norichika Aoki into the lineup. Aoki homered Tuesday, impressing his manager.
“I didn’t know he had any power,” Gibbons joked when asked about Aoki. “He hit a big home run down there in Houston and then got us on the board (Tuesday) against one of the toughest guys we face (Chris Archer). He’s been good.”