Rays-Blue Jays Preview

The first two games of the Tampa Bay Rays’ weekend series in

Toronto couldn’t have gone much worse.

The Rays could be in store for another tough go with Andy

Sonnanstine set to make a spot start against the high-powered Blue

Jays in Sunday’s finale.

Toronto took advantage of two Tampa Bay errors to hand the Rays

(67-43) a 2-1 loss in the Friday opener. It was a disheartening

defeat for a Tampa Bay team battling New York for first place in

the AL East, but not nearly as embarrassing as Saturday’s 17-11

loss.

Toronto (58-52) hit eight homers, second most in franchise

history, in plating a run in every inning but the eighth against a

Rays club that leads the AL with a 3.68 ERA. The Blue Jays, tops in

the majors with 175 homers, finished with season highs in runs and

hits (20).

“You think they’re going to get a couple (home runs) during the

course of every game, that’s just how they’re built,” Rays manager

Joe Maddon said. “I guess they made up for not getting any

(Friday).”

Tampa Bay, which has not been swept since May 24-26, has lost a

season-worst four consecutive games.

The Rays’ last victory came Tuesday over Minnesota in Jeff

Niemann’s most recent start. His next turn was Sunday, but he was

scratched with a sore right shoulder. The injury isn’t considered

serious and Niemann is expected to miss only one start.

That forced Maddon to turn to Sonnanstine (2-0, 4.22 ERA), who

is expected to be activated from the disabled list to make his

first start of the year.

Sonnanstine, out since July 18 because of a strained left

hamstring, has made 30 relief appearances this season. The

right-hander hasn’t started against the Blue Jays since 2008, and

is 2-2 with a 5.92 ERA in seven career games against them.

Sonnanstine threw 1 1/3 innings in his lone rehab start for

Single-A Charlotte on Thursday, and has gone longer than three

innings only three times this year.

That could spell trouble for Tampa Bay considering James Shields

went four innings Saturday, becoming the eighth pitcher in the

modern era to surrender six homers in a game.

Aaron Hill and J.P. Arencibia each hit two home runs for

Toronto, while Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Lyle

Overbay also went deep. Bautista’s shot was his major

league-leading 34th.

Arencibia, making his major league debut, homered on the first

pitch of his first at-bat. The rookie catcher added another

first-pitch homer in the sixth and finished with four hits.

“I could never have imagined this, ever,” Arencibia said. “I

was pretty surprised because my first at-bat I really wasn’t that

nervous. I was pretty even-keeled and then after that I was pretty

comfortable in the box.”

Arencibia, called up from Triple-A Las Vegas after John Buck

injured his right thumb, could be back behind the plate to catch

Brandon Morrow (8-6, 4.79).

The right-hander was a little shaky in an 8-6 victory over the

Yankees on Monday, allowing five runs in 5 1-3 innings, but managed

to win his third straight start. It was the fourth time in six

outings Morrow yielded five runs.

Morrow has gone 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the

Rays this season.