Toronto Blue Jays (59-66 SU, 57-68 RL, 59-60-6 O/U) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (62-65 SU, 62-65 RL, 63-61-3 O/U)
MLB: Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 1:10 p.m. EST
The Line: Tampa Bay Rays -111/Toronto Blue Jays +101. Total: 8.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays will wrap up a three-game series when they meet again at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay on Thursday afternoon. Toronto dropped the opener on Tuesday and has now lost four in a row. The Rays have suddenly won two in succession on the heels of a 1-8 stretch.
Trip off to a slow start
The Blue Jays are fading out of the American League wild-card race with four straight losses to start their six-game road trip road trip after leaving the tying run at third base with one out in Tuesday’s 6-5 setback against Tampa Bay. Josh Donaldson continued his assault on Rays pitching with a solo homer in the series opener–his seventh blast and 11th RBI against Tampa Bay this year. Kevin Pillar was ejected after his first at-bat and saw his six-game hitting streak (10-for-23) come to an end. Right fielder Jose Bautista has 31 career homers in 152 games at the Rays’ expense but is just 9-for-55 with 21 strikeouts against them in 2017.
Left-hander J.A. Happ is taking the mound for Toronto on Thursday. Happ is 6-9 with a solid 3.90 ERA through 18 starts this season. He had turned in three straight outings with no more than one run allowed (a total of three runs in 18.2 innings) before giving up five runs in five innings during a 7-4 loss at the Cubs last Friday.
Cobb back on the mound
The Rays have won back-to-back games for the first time since beginning this month with three in a row to the good. Kevin Kiermaier has given Tampa Bay a boost since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list, going 7-for-17 with a homer, three RBIs, and three runs scored in his last four contests. The Rays, who sit four games back in the race for the AL’s second wild card, have picked it up on offense with 15 runs in the last three games. Wilson Ramos has heated up with 14 hits in his last seven games. Designated hitter Lucas Duda has six homers since he was acquired on July 28–the most of anyone on the club during this stretch.
Alex Cobb will oppose Happ on Thursday. The right-hander is a respectable 9-8 with a 3.80 so far this season. He has not pitched since Aug. 5, when he allowed only one run in six innings against the Brewers but Tampa Bay was blanked 3-0. Cobb has since been on the disabled list with turf toe.
The Toronto Blue Jays are:
- 5-2 in their last seven games on astroturf
- 6-2 in their last eight games that are the third in a series
- 5-0 in their last five games on Thursdays
The Tampa Bay Rays are:
- 3-8 in their last 11 overall
- 2-5 in their last seven home games
- 3-8 in their last 11 games against the American League East
Cobb may be rusty, having not pitched in almost three weeks. That may be just what the doctor ordered for the Blue Jays, who are struggling at the moment but also have plenty of hitters working their bats well–Donaldson, Pillar, and Bautista to name a few. Toronto is 5-2 in its last seven on astroturf, 6-2 in its last eight that are the third in a series, 5-0 in its last five on Thursdays, and 14-6 in Happ’s last 20 starts against losing opponents. The Rays are 3-8 in their last 11 overall, 2-5 in their last seven at home, 3-8 in their last 11 against the American League East, and 3-8 in their last 11 on astroturf. Look for those trends to continue.