The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will be sorry to see July end.
Tampa Bay hopes to finish July with a winning record as it tries to complete a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays at SkyDome.
The Devil Rays are 13-12 in July. They have won the first two games of this three-game series and a sweep will give them their first winning month since they went 14-13 in September and a few games in October of 2001.
“We’ve been playing awfully competitive baseball for the last month now, and it’s good to see,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “These kids are starting to gain a little confidence. They are starting to enjoy the frequency of the winning, although we’ve only won 39 games.”
Jeff Liefer hit a go-ahead two-run homer after being recalled from the minors earlier in the day as the Devil Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-3 on Wednesday.
“I’m happy,” Liefer said. “You want to contribute to a win. Luckily, I was able to step off a plane and do it today.”
Liefer, claimed off waivers from Montreal on June 6, played four games with Tampa Bay before being optioned to Triple-A Durham, where he batted .315 with six homers and 18 RBIs.
First baseman Carlos Delgado was the Blue Jays’ designated hitter for the third straight game because of sore knees.
Toronto manager Carlos Tosca hopes to have Delgado back at first when the Blue Jays play on grass Friday in Anaheim.
“He’s been pretty sore,” Tosca said. “He’s getting treatment here. He’s feeling better, but we felt that turf might bother him a little bit more than normal grass.”
Delgado is batting .302 (13-for-43) with three home runs and nine RBIs in 12 games since the All-Star break.
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 26 GB, AL East. Blue Jays - 3rd place, 12 GB, AL East.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Jorge Sosa (3-8, 4.94 ERA). Sosa was ineffective his last time out, allowing seven runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Chicago on Friday. The 26-year-old righty is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts in July. Lefties are hitting .345 against Sosa.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Mark Hendrickson (6-7, 5.25 ERA). The 29-year-old Hendrickson has a 3.70 ERA in July. Hendrickson went 5 1-3 innings, giving up four runs and eight hits in a 7-2 loss to Baltimore on Saturday. The left-hander had previously held the New York Yankees to five hits in seven innings of an 8-0 win on July 21.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .307 avg. and 58 runs; Aubrey Huff, 18 HRs and 58 RBIs; Carl Crawford, 28 SBs. Blue Jays - Delgado, .312 avg., 31 HRs and 106 RBIs; Vernon Wells, 85 runs; Bobby Kielty, 6 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Devil Rays, 6-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - Huff is 0-for-6 against Hendrickson. … OF Crawford is hitting .330 in July. … RHP Victor Zambrano, who was the winning pitcher on Wednesday, improved to 7-3 since returning from the minors May 23. Blue Jays - OF Delgado leads the AL with 31 home runs and 106 RBIs. … 3B Eric Hinske went 0-for-5 Wednesday to snap an eight-game hitting streak. … Toronto has been swept by the Devil Rays only once before, from June 15-17, 1998.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 16-35 on the road; Blue Jays - 25-28 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - INF Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 15-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL. Blue Jays - RHP Pete Walker (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (shoulder), 60-day DL.