(Sports Network) - One of the hottest teams in baseball has kicked off a 10-
game road trip in fine fashion and now aims to win a fourth straight outing
overall as the Tampa Bay Rays go up against the Toronto Blue Jays in the
second of a three-game set at Rogers Centre Saturday afternoon.
Since losing back-to-back outings versus Toronto and Detroit in late June, the
Rays have been taking down foes with staggering regularity, winning a total of
15 of their last 17 decisions. Rather surprisingly, the two setbacks during
the run have come versus a Houston team that owns the worst record in
The Rays, now just 2 1/2 games behind Boston for first place in the American
League East, needed some timely hitting late in the series opener on Friday as
they picked up an 8-5 victory. The visitors tallied a pair of runs in both the
eighth and ninth inning of a game that featured a total of eight home runs,
four on both sides.
Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist both tallied three hits for Tampa Bay, the former
scoring twice, while Kelly Johnson added a pair of hits and crossed the plate
two times himself. All three players went deep for the Rays, as did Evan
Longoria, who hit his 19th of the campaign.
Despite giving up three home runs to Toronto during the power display, David
Price managed to hold on for the win as he made it through seven innings,
permitting four runs on seven hits, while striking out five.
"That was a big win for us tonight," Price said. "We hit on all cylinders. I
didn't pitch as well as I could have, I don't feel. Our defense was still
phenomenal. We put up (14) hits and eight runs. (Toronto's Esmil) Rogers is an
extremely tough starter, especially against us. And then the bullpen, the guys
they run out there. Everybody's got a one-and-a-half ERA, so for us to get
some quality at-bats and score some runs against those guys, it shows a lot
about our hitters."
Suffering the loss was reliever Brett Cecil, who was charged with one run on
one hit and a walk in just a third of an inning of work. Toronto starter Esmil
Rogers surrendered all four home runs hit by the visitors, leading to four
runs total. Rogers lasted 5 2/3 innings, scattering seven hits and striking
Jose Bautista connected on his 21st home run of the campaign, a two-run shot
in the third inning, while Edwin Encarnacion delivered his team-leading 26th
home run. At the bottom of the lineup, J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie also
contributed solo home runs, but still the Jays bowed for the second straight
game and fourth time in five tries.
With the defeat on Friday, Toronto is now five games under .500 and last in
the AL East standings by playing 12 1/2 games off the pace set by division
Heading out to the hill this afternoon for the Rays will be Jeremy Hellickson,
seeking his fifth win in as many decisions. The right-hander, who has a career
mark of 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA in nine starts versus Toronto, has actually won
seven of his last eight decisions overall after starting the campaign with two
defeats in three decisions in the month of April.
Most recently Hellickson went up against Minnesota at home back on July 10 and
while he allowed three runs on six hits over six innings, he did manage to
strike out eight in what eventually became a 4-3 win for the hosts.
The Iowa native, already 1-0 on the season versus the Jays, has fanned a total
of 97 batters in 2013, posting a combined 17 strikeouts in the last two games
without walking a single batter.
Countering for the home team will be Mark Buehrle as he seeks to even his
season record at 6-6. Now on with his third club in as many seasons, Buehrle
is hoping to put a very rough appearance on July 12 in Baltimore behind him.
For the third time this season the left-hander surrendered three homes runs,
eventually leading to eight earned runs on nine hits over six innings. Buehrle
struck out four and didn't walk a batter, but still the Jays were dealt the
8-5 setback on the road.
Buehrle has already lost to Tampa Bay once in 2013, giving up four runs on
eight hits and four walks in only five innings back on June 25. Despite the
loss, the hurler still has a career mark of 8-4 with a 4.55 ERA in 21
Tampa Bay has won the season series with the Jays in each of the last three
years and is now again on top in 2013 with six victories in 11 chances thanks
to last night's triumph.
The Sports Network