Based on Matt Moore’s pitching of late, the Tampa Bay Rays could be in good position to continue their home dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The left-hander tries to win a third consecutive start while looking to help the Rays complete a three-game sweep with a fifth straight home victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Alex Cobb allowed one run over seven innings as Tampa Bay (58-52) secured its 16th straight winning home series over Toronto with a 3-2 victory Wednesday. The Rays are 35-12 against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field since Toronto last won a series there April 6-8, 2007.
“We seem to struggle for some reason playing in this ballpark.” losing pitcher Carlos Villanueva said.
There’s a good chance that success continues with the ball in the hand of Moore (8-7, 3.84 ERA), who has not allowed a run in 17 2-3 innings despite yielding six hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings of a 2-0 win over Baltimore on Friday.
Moore last gave up a run in the second inning of a 2-1 home loss to Seattle on July 22. That’s his only defeat while recording five wins and posting a 1.88 ERA during his last six starts at Tropicana Field.
“My goal is to compete every night out,” Moore told the Rays’ official website. “Whatever I have that night, it has to be 100 percent.”
In his only previous start versus Toronto, at home, on May 22, Moore gave up two runs and walked four in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-5 victory.
It’s uncertain if Rays star Evan Longoria will be in the lineup to support Moore. Longoria is 1 for 7 in two games as the designated hitter after missing 85 because of a partially torn left hamstring.
While manager Joe Maddon plans to be cautious with the slugger, Longoria is 4 for 6 with three home runs against scheduled Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez (7-8, 4.47). The right-hander has allowed 10 runs and three homers in 13 innings over two starts versus Tampa Bay this season. He is 0-3 with a 5.68 ERA during his two-year career against the Rays - all in Toronto.
Alvarez is 4-2 with a 4.55 ERA in 10 road starts this season and allowed three runs and a season-high five walks in five innings of a 4-1 loss at Oakland on Thursday.
David Cooper hit his fourth home run and Edwin Encarnacion had an RBI on Wednesday for the Blue Jays (53-57), who have lost eight of 10.
Encarnacion is batting .290 with 29 homers and 75 RBIs this season, but .203 with six RBIs in 23 career games at Tropicana Field.
Out since July 17 with a wrist injury, Toronto slugger Jose Bautista will not return for the finale but has been cleared to resume swinging a bat after undergoing an MRI on Wednesday.
“At that point, it’s still proceed with his tolerance to any kind of discomfort,” manager John Farrell said. “This will be a cautious approach and we’ll monitor it daily.”
The Blue Jays are 8-12 without Bautista, who has hit .244 with 27 home runs and 65 RBIs in 90 games.