Longoria homered twice off Henderson Alvarez(notes) in a 6-1 win at Rogers Centre on Friday, giving him six in the last nine games. Desmond Jennings(notes) also had a two-run shot as the Rays (71-59) won their third straight over the Blue Jays (66-65) and improved to 4-2 in Toronto this season.
After beating the 21-year-old Alvarez in his fourth major league start, Longoria and the Rays will face the 26-year-old Luis Perez(notes) (3-2, 3.26 ERA), who took a perfect game into the sixth inning during his first MLB start Sunday before beating Oakland 1-0.
The left-hander allowed one hit and two walks in the sixth before getting an inning-ending double play. He struck out four in his six innings.
“I hadn’t started a game and I didn’t know how far I was going to go,” Perez said. “Mentally I stayed strong. Each inning I pitched better and better. I kept attacking hitters and throwing strikes.”
While Perez was spectacular his last time out, Tampa Bay’s starters have been steady over the past two weeks, posting a 2.46 ERA while pitching at least seven innings in 11 consecutive games. The last team in the majors to have at least 12 such performances in a row was the 1994 Los Angeles Dodgers with 16 straight.
Niemann (8-5, 3.41) will need to improve against the Blue Jays if he wants to add to that streak and help his team trim a 7 1/2-game deficit in the AL wild card race.
The right-hander is 0-2 with an 8.36 ERA in his last three matchups with Toronto, failing to work more than five innings in any of them. He took the loss in a 3-2 home defeat May 4, leaving after four innings because of a back injury, which landed him on the disabled list for six weeks.
Niemann is 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 11 starts since returning from the DL, but he suffered the lone loss in Monday’s 5-2 defeat to Detroit. He gave up four runs over 7 1-3 innings while being outdueled by major league wins leader Justin Verlander(notes).
“We had a chance to win that game,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “(Niemann) gave us a chance. He really did pitch well enough to win.”
Adam Lind(notes), mired in a 2-for-21 slump, is 10 for 23 with two homers in his career against Niemann. Major league home runs leader Jose Bautista(notes), who threw objects on the field after being ejected in the sixth inning of Friday’s loss, is 2 for 15 with four strikeouts in the matchup.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell, who was released from the hospital Friday after being diagnosed with pneumonia, might return to the dugout for this game.