Tampa a death trap for Blue Jays

Rays' Evan Longoria is on a tear this month, with 17 home runs and a 1.050 OPS in June. (REUTERS)

Rays' Evan Longoria is on a tear this month, with 17 home runs and a 1.050 OPS in June. (REUTERS)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:08 PM ET

TORONTO - No team in baseball has owned the Blue Jays like the Tampa Bay Rays over the course of the last seven seasons.

Early in April of 2007, the Jays went into Tropicana Field and won two out of three games. We’re sure nobody thought much of it at the time but it became a turning point. In 18 trips back to the Rays’ home field since then, Toronto has yet to win a series. They came close earlier this season, winning the first two instalments of a four-game series, but then dropped the next two to get a split.

Over a span of six calendar years, Tampa Bay has dominated at home against the Jays, winning 42 of 56 games. The Jays have done better against the Rays in Toronto, but still have a losing record, beaten in 28 of 42 contests. The overall record is not quite so surprising in that Tampa has been a consistent contender ever since the 2007 season but the inability of Toronto to crack the hex of Tropicana Field has been confounding.

This three-game series holds some added significance for both teams. The Jays have been playing some of their best baseball in years and it has yielded a team record-tying 11-game winning streak to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get back into the American League East mix.

Conversely, the Rays have been up and down this year. They started the season winning just five of their first 15. Then they went on a 29-17 run that got them, at one point, within two games of the division lead. Now, after winning just four of their last 14 (heading into Sunday’s finale against the Yankees), they are in danger of falling into last place behind Toronto.

Since 2007, the Rays have been all about pitching. They have consistently presented a pitching staff, top to bottom, that was among the bets in the league. With young arms bubbling up through the farm system, they took a bit of a gamble by trading away the anchor of their staff, James Shields this past offseason. Though they raked in quite a haul of prospects (Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard), Shields’ 220-innings has been tough to replace, especially with Cy Young Award winner David Price and Alex Cobb both on the disabled list.

Young arms like Odorizzi, Chris Archer and Alex Colome have filled in but it has been a struggle.

Price should be back soon. His triceps injury has healed and he’s out on a rehab assignment now. Cobb, who was hit on the back of the head by a line drive last week, is out indefinitely with a mild concussion and has experienced fluid buildup in his ear.

Matt Moore had the look of an ace at the start of the season, going 8-0 in his first 11 starts with a 2.19 ERA. In June, however, he is 1-3 in four starts with a 10.61 ERA.


Photos