The Tampa Bay Rays are built around pitching, but if they’re going to remain in the playoff picture, they need to snap out of an extended offensive lull. The Rays have been shut out six times in their last 25 contests, including a 2-0 loss in the opener of a four-game series at Toronto. The Rays have lost five of six and fallen 1 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the final wild-card spot from the American League.
After losing 22 of their last 30, the playoffs are not a realistic goal for the Toronto Blue Jays, who have won back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 12-13. Toronto had lost five straight to Tampa Bay before Thursday’s victory.
Rays Blue Jays Betting
When: 7:07 PM ET, Friday, August 31, 2012
Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, Sun Sports, SN, TVA Sports
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Jeremy Hellickson (8-9, 3.42 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Brandon Morrow (7-5, 3.06)
Hellickson has alternated wins and losses in his last six starts, and he suffered the setback while allowing four runs over five innings last time out against Oakland. Hellickson is 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in four starts against Toronto, including a 1-1 mark this season.
Morrow’s return from a two-month stint on the disabled list with a left oblique injury didn’t go well, as he allowed four runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings in a loss at Baltimore. He will try to rebound against a Rays team that has given him trouble. He is 4-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 14 games (10 starts) against Tampa Bay and has been dinged for a 9.82 ERA in two losses against the Rays this year.
1. Blue Jays SS Yunel Escobar is 6-for-8 with two runs scored and five RBIs in the past two games. He is riding an eight-game hitting streak.
2. Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist, who is riding an eight-game hitting streak, is 4-for-26 with 11 strikeouts against Morrow.
3. Toronto 2B Kelly Johnson, who has compiled back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time in more than two months, is 0-for-5 against Hellickson.