The Blue Jays and Tampa Rays appear to be two teams moving in opposite directions.
That doesn’t bode well for the hometown Jays as they are the team that is heading south.
With last night’s 4-1 loss, the Jays have dropped four in a row and seven of their past 11 while the rocketing Rays have won seven in a row and ended June with a 19-7 record, second best in the majors.
Of more concern to the Jays, they now sport losing records against the Big Three in the Al East as they are 2-4 vs. Boston, 1-2 vs. the Yankees and have dropped the opening two in this three-game series, the first meeting between the clubs this season.
To nudge into the post-season, the Jays will have to find a way to finish ahead of two of the above-mentioned teams but as the Rays have shown the past two nights, they do not have the look of a one-year wonder after winning the AL East last year.
“It’s a tough club over there,” manager Cito Gaston said of the Rays before the game. “They do have good pitching, they play good defence and they steal bases.”
Gaston should have added that they can crush the ball, too.
Following today’s afternoon matinee meeting, the Jays have an off day and then set out on a 10-game road trip prior to the all-star break. It promises to be a test of character as they open with four in the Bronx against the Yankees, followed by three in Tampa where they were a depressing 2-7 last year. The trip ends in the heat and humidity of Baltimore for another three-game set.
After besting the Jays Roy Halladay in his comeback appearance Monday, the Rays downed a game Scott Richmond last night thanks to three solo shots from three different players.
Home runs and Richmond are on a first-name basis now that they’ve met with such regularity.
The Rays didn’t waste any time attacking last night Richmond as centre fielder B.J. Upton jumped on the first pitch and knocked it into the stands in left.
Then in the third, another member of the Tampa track team, Carl Crawford, drilled one to right. In the sixth it was Willy Aybar, who opened the inning with a shot into the seats in right.
They were the 13th, 14th and 15th home runs surrendered by Richmond, tops on the Jays. It was the first time in his career that Richmond, 6-5, has allowed three homers.
The right-hander has now allowed home runs in 10 of his 13 starts this season.
All in all, though, it was a solid outing as over seven innings he allowed the three runs, six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven.
As is the norm, the Jays didn’t accomplish much against the Rays Matt Garza, who held them to seven hits and the one run over seven-plus innings.
Garza came into the game with a 1-3 record over his last seven starts, but he usually comes up aces when going against the Blue Jays.
Last year, Garza faced the Jays five times going 3-2 but was extremely stingy as in those games his ERA was a meager 0.47.
The Jays lone run came in the second when third baseman Scott Rolen singled to extend his career-best hit streak to 18 games. On a single to centre by Adam Lind, Rolen showed his savvy as he sprinted to third.
That hustle paid off as Lyle Overbay ground into a double play with Rolen scoring on the play.
Trailing 2-1 the Jays watched a good scoring opportunity fly by in the fifth when with two out they had runners on second and third.
Vernon Wells, though, could only manage a routine fly to centre for the third out.
Wells went 1-for-4 in the game and is in a 2-for-19 rut.