Series Preview

Series Preview: Blue Jays at Rays

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Blue Jays had a much needed day off following a heartbreaking series loss to the New York Yankees. They next head to sunny Florida to take on the Rays of Tampa Bay. Toronto always seems to have trouble beating the Rays. The last time they had an above .500 year against Tampa was in 2014 (11-8) and prior to that was in 2006 (12-6). This season, the Blue Jays are having a hard time against every team, so winning this series in the Sunshine State could do wonders.

The two last played at the end of April and the Jays came out on top to win their first series. At times, Toronto’s pitching has been great, but the hitting has been totally absent. Other times, the hitting is there but the pitching is awful. We have yet to see any stretch of time when both components are clicking at the same time, which is evident in their record. Who knows whether it will happen in this series, but the time will come when the team gets on a roll. The Blue Jays won’t necessarily need to be at their best to beat Tampa, who are 15-15 entering the series, good enough for 4th in the AL East.

The Meetings on the Mound

Game 1: Friday May 5, 7:10 ET – Francisco Liriano vs. Chris Archer

Leftie Francisco Liriano has had two starts against the Rays this season and we’ve seen the good and the bad. His season premiere was against the Rays on April 7, and it was a nightmare. He only recorded one out, giving up 5 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks. His April 29 start against Tampa was great. He went 5.0 innings, only surrendering 1 run on 4 hits. Over his last four, Liriano has pitched very well so hopefully he stays hot on Friday.

Former ace Chris Archer appears to be having a bounce-back season after having a bad year (by his standards). He has faced Toronto twice in this young season and was a tough opponent on both occasions. Archer went over 7 innings deep in two games, not giving up more than 2 runs or 5 hits. Perhaps the Blue Jays can figure him out for this series opener, but they will need to bring their A-game.

Game 2: Saturday May 6, 4:10 ET – Marco Estrada vs. Jake Odorizzi

Off to an excellent start, Marco Estrada has put up good numbers in 5 of 6 outings. Unfortunately, his one bad start was against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Although he has been pitching well, his record does not show it (0-1). This is mainly due to a lack of run support with an often anemic offense behind him. He will need some help from the Toronto bats to pick up his first win.

Now in his fifth season with the Rays, Jake Odorizzi has fared well in four starts this year. He had a mild hamstring issue that caused him to miss couple of weeks, but he looks to be at full strength after a good start against the Marlins. Odorizzi picked up his only win of the season against the Blue Jays on April 9 where he went 6.0 innings allowing 2 runs on a stingy 2 hits.

Game 3: Sunday May 7, 1:10 ET – Mat Latos vs. Alex Cobb

After throwing a stinker against the Yankees on May 2, there were rumours that Mat Latos had cleared his locker and left the planet. Turns out he had a personal issue to attend to, but he sure had the gossips squawking about his departure. With the Blue Jays rotation rendered thin by injuries, Latos has a shot to redeem himself against the Rays in Sunday’s matinee.

Latos will face off against Alex Cobb in his first start against Toronto this season. There is nothing spectacular about Cobb’s pitching, but he definitely gets the job done. He doesn’t surrender a lot of walks or home runs, so we may see some battles with Blue Jay hitters who will get their chances if they are patient.

Update: Joe Biagini will make the start on Sunday following Mat Latos being designated for assignment on May 5.

Players to Watch

Toronto

Riding a hot bat in the month of May, Steve Pearce has come to life after a forgettable start to the season. He’s homered in each of his last two games, and the Blue Jays are hoping yesterday’s rest won’t cool him off coming into this series. Something that has been lacking for Toronto this season is the long ball, so it’s great to see Pearce hit 3 home runs early in the month. My bets will be on Kendrys Morales and Jose Bautista starting to heat up as well.

Tampa Bay

It must make Evan Longoria’s mouth water to see the Blue Jays coming up on his schedule. He has been a Jay killer his whole career and his success against Toronto is continuing this season. It seems that no matter how bad his year is going, he never fails to light it up against the Blue Jays. Expect nothing less in this series as he gets a juicy matchup versus Toronto pitchers who surrender their share of hits. Another player who is tough against the Jays is Steven Souza Jr.  In his last series against Toronto, not only was he getting hits, but he was also taking hits away, with some amazing plays in right field. He is a pesky player who is always in the mix of things.

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