Despite finally ending their longest losing streak of the season and retaking first place in their division, the Tampa Bay Rays are still slumping offensively.
A matchup with a red-hot former Cy Young Award winner doesn’t figure to help them get their bats going.
The Rays (56-39) snapped a seven-game skid and leapfrogged Boston to the top of the AL East on Friday with a 2-1 win over Toronto, but they managed only five hits and trailed until Ben Zobrist’s two-run home run in the seventh inning.
Tampa Bay is hitting .186 in the last eight games, including 5-for-58 (.086) with men in scoring position. All-Star rookie Evan Longoria went 0-for-3 on Friday and has three hits and 11 strikeouts in his last 23 at-bats.
It likely won’t get any easier against Halladay (11-6, 2.71 ERA), who’s coming off his second shutout in his last three starts. The right-hander pitched a two-hitter against the New York Yankees last Friday, walking one and striking out eight in a 5-0 victory.
He’s won three straight starts, posting a 0.72 ERA over that span, and is 7-1 with a 2.06 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Halladay is 9-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 24 games - 21 starts - against the Rays. He threw one of his major league-leading seven complete games against them April 23, but lost after allowing five runs and nine hits in eight innings of a 5-3 defeat.
That was part of a three-game sweep of Toronto at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the Blue Jays (47-49) are 1-6 against the Rays this year - 0-4 on the road.
Despite its recent struggles, Tampa Bay is 33-7 in its last 40 home games.
“There’s definitely a comfort about it,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of playing at home. “You can’t deny that. As long as we maintain this kind of intensity and this kind of play at home I believe before the year is over we’ll become a much better road team also.”
Matt Garza (7-5, 3.96) has thrived at Tropicana Field, going 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA in nine starts. He also pitched well at Toronto on May 7, losing despite giving up one run in 6 2-3 innings of the Rays’ 6-2 defeat.
Garza gave up a season-high 11 hits Saturday at Cleveland, allowing seven runs in five innings of Tampa Bay’s 8-4 loss. He went 3-1 with a 2.02 ERA in his previous five starts.
He’ll face a Toronto lineup that has struggled to score all season, as the Blue Jays rank 13th in the AL with 400 runs. They had four hits in Friday’s loss, with their only offense coming on a home run from No. 9 hitter Adam Lind.
“We were just one hit … or two hits away from scoring a couple runs,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston told his team’s official Web site.
The Blue Jays, who had won five of six overall entering Friday, have lost five of six on the road. They’re 3-12 in their last 15 games in the United States, scoring two or fewer runs eight times over that span.