After surging to the top of the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays have dropped consecutive games to fall back into second place, with their latest loss especially hard to swallow.
The Rays try to bounce back from that heartbreaking defeat and avoid losing three in a row for the first time in six weeks Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tampa Bay (67-41) made up five games and took a one-game lead over New York by winning 10 of 11, a run capped by Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over Minnesota. The Rays lost the final two in the series against the Twins, though, dropping one-half game back of the Yankees.
The most recent defeat left a bad taste in manager Joe Maddon’s mouth.
After Tampa Bay’s six-run rally in the eighth inning Thursday tied the score at 6 - a comeback highlighted by pinch-hitter Jason Bartlett’s(notes) grand slam - the Rays fell behind in the top of the ninth in bizarre fashion. Jason Kubel’s(notes) two-out popup hit a catwalk high above Tropicana Field and fell near the pitcher’s mound for a go-ahead single in the 8-6 loss.
“If you were to lose the pennant by one game and look back at a game like that because a roof got in the way, you’d be very upset.”
The Rays, who have not lost three consecutive games since June 20-23, are hoping to get back on track against a Toronto team they’re 6-3 against this year.
The three-time All-Star is batting .167 with a homer and four RBIs in his last 14 games, but is hitting .429 with four RBIs against Toronto this season. He is 5 for 9 with two doubles lifetime against scheduled starter Brett Cecil(notes) (8-5, 3.77 ERA).
Matt Garza(notes) (11-5, 4.11) will start for the Rays after giving up four runs and five hits - all for extra bases - in seven innings of a 5-4 loss to New York on Saturday. Garza, who did not get the decision, was making his first outing since throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history July 26.
The right-hander hasn’t had any success versus Toronto this year, recording a 6.35 ERA in losing both outings.
The Blue Jays (56-52) are returning home after taking two of three at Yankee Stadium but also being on the wrong end of history.
“It’s a great accomplishment for him, but I’m not worried about him hitting 600 home runs,” Marcum told the Blue Jays’ official website. “I’m more concerned with us losing the game. That’s what we’re here for, to play baseball, not worry about records.”
Jose Bautista(notes), the major league leader with 33 homers, has batted .447 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs in his last 11 home games. He has gone 3 for 25 with one RBI in his last eight contests against the Rays, but is 3 for 8 with three doubles lifetime against Garza.
Cecil allowed one run while throwing a career-high 114 pitches in a 2-1 win over Cleveland on Saturday, not getting the decision. That’s been the story lately for Cecil, who recorded a 2.23 ERA in five July starts but went 1-0.
The left-hander has posted a 3.38 ERA in winning both starts against the Rays this season.