Tampa Bay will finally receive some offensive help as third baseman Evan Longoria returns from the disabled list Tuesday when the Rays open a three-game series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Longoria has been sidelined for more than three months with a hamstring injury and returns to a team that hasn’t scored a run over its last 21 innings. The Tampa Bay Rays were 15-8 before the All-Star suffered the injury. Toronto is just 2-6 against Tampa Bay this season.
The Blue Jays hope to get third baseman Brett Lawrie (rib cage) and outfielder Colby Rasmus (groin) back for the series opener. Both players were injured Friday. J.A. Happ will start Tuesday’s contest after scheduled starter Carlos Villanueva left the team and headed to the Dominican Republic to handle a personal issue. Toronto has won two straight games after losing its previous six. While Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled, its bullpen has been spectacular. Rays relievers have a 0.38 ERA over the last 15 games and both closer Fernando Rodney and left-hander J.P. Howell have 20-inning scoreless streaks.
Blue Jays Rays Betting
When: 7:10 PM ET, Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, RSN (Toronto), SUN (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays LH J.A. Happ (0-0, 5.14 ERA) vs. Rays RH James Shields (9-7, 4.24)
Happ is making his first start for Toronto. He has made four relief appearances since being acquired from the Houston Astros. He was 7-9 with a 4.83 ERA in 18 starts with Houston prior to the trade. Happ allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings in 2011 in his lone career start against Tampa Bay.
Shields tossed a three-hit shutout against the Oakland Athletics in his last outing, tying a season high with 11 strikeouts and not issuing a single walk. It was the first complete game of the season for Shields, who led the majors with 11 last season. He struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings against Toronto on May 23 but wasn’t involved in the decision. Shields is 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 19 career starts against the Blue Jays.
1. Toronto has scored just 21 runs over its last eight games.
2. The Rays expect 2B Ben Zobrist back in the lineup after he left Sunday’s game with back spasms.
3. Blue Jays 3B Edwin Encarnacion is batting .300 with two homers against Tampa Bay this season.