Rays-Blue Jays Preview

After a successful series against one AL East contender, the

Toronto Blue Jays are off to a good start against another.

The Blue Jays look to hand the second-place Tampa Bay Rays a

season-high fourth straight loss Saturday afternoon at Rogers

Centre.

Fourth in the division and 10 1/2 games behind the first-place

Yankees, Toronto (57-52) took two of three at New York before

winning 2-1 in Friday’s series opener against Tampa Bay.

Lyle Overbay doubled home the go-ahead run in the seventh inning

as the Blue Jays won for the fifth time in 13 home games against

the Rays (67-42), who are one-half game behind New York.

Though Tampa Bay has won 10 of 14, it’s scored eight runs during

the three-game skid with all but two coming in one inning of an 8-6

loss to Minnesota on Thursday.

“Two of our last three losses have been by 2-1 scores,” manager

Joe Maddon said. “Obviously we need to do a bit more

offensively.”

Sean Rodriguez had two hits and Willy Aybar an RBI on Friday for

the Rays, who are batting .219 in their last 14 games.

Tampa Bay will be without first baseman Carlos Pena for more

than a week after he was placed on the disabled list with a foot

injury Friday. Pena, who had not played since last Saturday, is

hitting .212 but has a team-leading 23 home runs.

All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford is expected to be in the

lineup Saturday after being rested in the opener. Crawford is 2 for

16 in his last four games and 7 for 31 against the Blue Jays this

season.

Crawford and the Rays hope to break out Saturday when they get

their first look at Toronto’s Brad Mills (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

The left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to take the

place of Jesse Litsch, who will have season-ending hip surgery.

Mills is making his fourth career start and second this season

after giving up two hits in seven innings of a 5-0 win over

Baltimore on July 28.

“It’s great to come up here and prove to myself that I can pitch

here and get outs here,” said Mills, who went 0-1 with a 14.09 ERA

in two starts last season. “I know I can pitch here.”

Tampa Bay starters are 10-1 with a 2.86 ERA in the last 14

games, and James Shields (10-9, 4.54) will try for a fourth

straight victory in this contest.

Shields allowed four hits and struck out 11 in 7 1-3 innings of

a 3-0 win over the Yankees on Sunday. He’s struck out 19 and posted

a 2.66 ERA while winning his last three starts.

“To finally put it together feels pretty good,” said the

right-hander, who won four straight starts April 17-May 4.

Making his first appearance versus Toronto this season, Shields

is 6-4 with a 3.57 ERA in 13 starts against the Blue Jays.

Overbay, a .306 hitter with three home runs against Shields, is

12 for 31 with five RBIs versus the Rays in 2010.

Toronto leads the majors with 167 home runs but failed to homer

for the first time in 14 home games Friday.