Rays-Blue Jays Preview

Facing Toronto’s Brandon Morrow might provide the Tampa Bay Rays

with a good opportunity to get back on track at the plate.

After being shut out for the second time in three days, the Rays

try to beat Morrow for the third time this season when they

continue their four-game road set against the Blue Jays on Friday

night.

Tampa Bay (71-60) has totaled eight runs over the last three

contests, all coming in a victory at Texas on Wednesday that

snapped a four-game skid. The Rays’ five-game winning streak

against the Blue Jays ended Thursday when Carlos Villanueva and

three relievers held them to five hits in a 2-0 loss.

Six of Tampa Bay’s nine shutout losses have come in the past 25

games.

“We’ve played that story way too often and we’ve got to get by

it somehow,” manager Joe Maddon said.

The Rays have lost three times in their last 12 games versus

Toronto (59-71). Thursday’s defeat also snapped a four-game winning

streak at Rogers Centre. Losers in three of four to open a

seven-game trip, the Rays are 1 1/2 games out of the second

wild-card spot in the AL.

“There’s not a whole lot to say about it,” said Tampa Bay

outfielder Sam Fuld, who is 0 for 10 in his last four games versus

Toronto. “You just try to bounce back.”

Tampa Bay will try to turn things around against Morrow (7-5,

3.06 ERA), who has allowed 12 runs, three homers and seven walks in

11 innings while losing both starts against the Rays this season –

each at home.

In his first start after missing more than two months with a

strained oblique, the right-hander gave up four runs – two earned –

and struck out seven on 88 pitches over 4 2-3 innings of an 8-2

loss at Baltimore on Saturday.

“I felt strong and the ball was coming out good,” Morrow told

the Blue Jays’ official website.

Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce had one of his team’s five hits Thursday,

just his fifth in the last 41 at-bats. However, he’s 6 for 20

(.300) with two doubles and one homer versus Morrow.

Scheduled Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson (8-9, 3.42) is 1-1

with a 2.77 ERA against the Blue Jays this season, and 2-0 with a

3.93 ERA in three career starts at Rogers Centre.

The right-hander is 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 10 road starts this

season.

Hellickson, however, looks to rebound after he allowed four runs

and two homers in five innings of a 4-2 home loss to Oakland on

Saturday.

“I just couldn’t make a pitch when I needed to,” he told the

Rays’ official website.

Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson are a combined 3 for 18 (.166)

against Hellickson, but delivered five of the eight hits Toronto

had Thursday while winning for the third time in four games after

losing seven in a row.

Escobar is batting .387 (12 for 31) in his last eight games

after going 4 for 34 (.118) in his previous 10.