Major League Baseball
Blue Jays-Rays preview
Major League Baseball

Blue Jays-Rays preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 7:31 p.m. ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Strangely enough, the last-place Tampa Bay Rays have gone 8-6 this season against the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, and many wins came like Friday's as Tampa Bay did its best to impersonate Toronto's prolific lineup at the plate.

The Rays had three home runs in Friday's 8-3 win, giving them 179 for the season, keeping them on pace to reset the club record for home runs -- they're on course for 218 and the current record is 199, set in 2009.

"We've been hitting some home runs lately, and it's been nice to see that it led us to a win," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We got down 2-0, but came back to tie it up and then we got some big home runs."

The Blue Jays held just a two-game lead on Boston entering the night, and getting wins against a last-place Rays lineup, some 18.5 games out of first, is a must as Toronto treads a close line between winning a division and missing the postseason entirely.


"We got beat," Jays manager John Gibbons said of a game in which his team was tied 2-2 in the sixth. "We got two runs up on the board in the first and then didn't scratch one across until too late. We had some chances."

Both lineups face tough pitchers on Saturday as the Rays throw rookie left-hander Blake Snell (4-7, 3.56 ERA) and the Jays answer with righty Marco Estrada (8-6, 3.37 ERA). Opponents are hitting just .200 against Estrada, the lowest average of any Jays starter, though the Rays got to him three weeks ago in a 9-2 win in Toronto.

Snell had really hit a rhythm deep in his rookie season, going nine straight starts allowing two earned runs or less, though that streak ended in his last start when he gave up four against Houston on Saturday. He knows the Blue Jays all too well, having lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his only start against them, an Aug. 10 outing in which he gave up five runs with four walks, the biggest damage coming on a three-run home run by Troy Tulowitzki.

Tampa Bay is long out of contention for anything other than picking up positive momentum to head into 2017. After Friday's win, they are 15-7 in their last 22 home games, and they continue to be a particular nemesis to the Blue Jays.

The Rays get three more games against Toronto on the road on Sept. 12-14, and they continue to play the role of spoiler in the American League East. Chasing Toronto for the division lead are Boston and Baltimore, and the Rays have seven games against the Orioles in the next two weeks, then have their final home series of the season against the Red Sox, giving them a chance to impact an AL East pennant race they aren't otherwise a part of.


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