Andy Sonnanstine needs one more win to reach 14, which would put him into a tie for the Tampa Bay Rays single-season record. Surpassing that mark is nothing new for Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.
On a surprising Rays team leading the AL East largely due to a strong pitching staff, Sonnanstine matches up with Halladay and the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.
Helped by a 3.75 team ERA, Tampa Bay (85-53) has been arguably baseball’s biggest story this season. Sonnanstine (13-6, 4.61 ERA) has the worst ERA among Rays starters, but he leads the team in wins and is one shy of tying Rolando Arrojo’s club single-season total of 14 set in 1998.
Sonnanstine, though, is 2-1 with a 6.10 ERA in five starts against Toronto (73-66), and 1-0 with a 7.20 ERA in his last three outings overall.
In his last start, the right-hander gave up six runs - five earned - and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings as Tampa Bay beat Baltimore 10-9 on Saturday.
Sonnanstine will take the mound for a Rays team that posted a 6.00 ERA en route to losing two of three games against the New York Yankees. Tampa Bay, however, won the finale 7-5 on Thursday night to extend its division lead over Boston to 3 1/2 games.
Toronto will counter with Halladay (17-9, 2.69), who in his last start tied Jim Clancy for second place in Blue Jays history with his 128th win. The veteran right-hander gave up two runs and eight hits in seven innings as Toronto beat the Yankees 6-2 on Sunday.
This is the third straight season Halladay has won 16 or more games, a feat he has reached five times in his career. He has won four straight starts, posting a 2.48 ERA.
Halladay is 10-7 with a 3.84 ERA in 24 starts and three relief appearances versus Tampa Bay. He is 1-3 with a 4.82 ERA against the Rays this season and will be facing a team that is averaging 7.8 runs while batting .344 over the last six games.
Willy Aybar homered and drove in three runs for the Rays on Thursday. Since taking over for injured rookie All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria, Aybar has five homers and 16 RBIs in 23 games. He’s also batting .375 (6-for-16) in six games versus Toronto this season.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have hit .346 while averaging 6.8 runs en route to winning five straight. They completed a three-game sweep of Minnesota with a 9-0 win Thursday night.
Travis Snider hit his first career home run and went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Toronto. The 20-year-old right fielder is batting .467 (7-for-15) in four games since being called up from Triple-A Syracuse on Aug. 28.
Snider, the Blue Jays’ first-round pick in 2006, began the season with Class-A Dunedin and was promoted to Double-A after 16 games.
“Man, he’s something,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “He’s very calm, he doesn’t get excited. He handles himself up there well.”
Vernon Wells, who also homered for Toronto, is hitting .432 (19-for-44) with six home runs and 15 RBIs in his last 11 games.
Wells has hit .306 (11-for-36) with three home runs and six RBIs in nine games versus Tampa Bay this season, but the Rays have won 11 of 15 meetings against the Blue Jays.