Tampa Bay (28-61) at Toronto (44-44)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Toronto, ON
Temp: 28° F
  • Game info: 7:07 pm EDT Thu Jul 14, 2005
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Without the services of staff ace Roy Halladay for at least a month, the Toronto Blue Jays may struggle to keep up in the tightly packed AL East.

They hope to take advantage of the division’s worst team when they open the second half with a four-game series against the visiting Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Toronto is in fourth place in the AL East, but is just 5 1/2 games behind first-place Boston, and in the thick of the wild card race.

However, with Halladay out 4-to-6 weeks with a fracture in his lower left leg, the Blue Jays need to improve on their .500 record at the All-Star break if they hope to be in contention when the hard-throwing right-hander returns.

“Up and down, unfortunately,” Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells said of the team’s play in the first half. “A lot of good things have happened, being where we are in our division, but it could be a lot better. It’s a sign of a young team and a team that’s still learning to win at this level.”

Toronto suffered a three-game sweep to Texas before the break, losing the finale 9-8 on Sunday.

All-Star Shea Hillenbrand went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. He replaced Baltimore third baseman Melvin Mora in the eighth inning of a 7-5 American League win in Detroit on Tuesday, but did not get an at-bat.

Entering the season, Hillenbrand was expected to be the team’s primary designated hitter, but he has played 42 games at third base because of Corey Koskie’s thumb injury.

“There were a lot of people who had doubts and were skeptical of what I was capable of doing,” Hillenbrand said. “There are always critics on everything that you do. I just go out there, prepare myself and help my team win.”

Danys Baez represented Tampa Bay in the All-Star game, but the closer didn’t make an appearance.

Baez has 13 saves, a 2.68 ERA and has been one of the only bright spots for what has been another terrible season for the Devil Rays. Tampa Bay has its second-worst record at the break in eight years of existence. The Devil Rays were 27-61 at the 2001 break.

“We don’t have a choice. If we want to move forward, we’ve got to put it behind us and keep moving forward,” Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford said.

The Devil Rays lost 9-4 to Detroit on Sunday. Jorge Cantu hit a two-run homer for Tampa Bay, which has lost 14 of 16.

Manager Lou Piniella didn’t rule out some roster changes before Thursday’s game.

“Let’s see what happens here with the makeup of the team over the break,” Piniella said. “See if we add anybody, or make some moves.”

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C. Fossum Bal vs. T. Lilly LAD
8-12 Record 10-11
4.92 ERA 5.56
128 K 96
60 BB 58
1.41 WHIP 1.53