Rays-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

An offensive outburst in their last contest has the Tampa Bay Rays in position to conclude an overall rough road trip on a positive note.

The Rays look to win their first road series of the year Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Luke Scott hit a grand slam for one of Tampa Bay's four home runs and helped the Rays (6-6) even this three-game set with a 12-2 win Wednesday. Matt Joyce had three hits, including his third homer, as the Rays won for the second time in three games after losing four in a row.

"We looked pretty good up and down,'' said manager Joe Maddon, who tweaked his lineup by moving Ben Zobrist from fifth to second in the order. "That was great."

Zobrist delivered with a two-run homer in the first inning.

"The different look seemed to work," Maddon said. "I like it.''

Tampa Bay opened the season by sweeping a three-game home set from the New York Yankees, but is 3-6 on a 10-game trip that began with stops in Detroit and Boston. The Rays have won nine of 14 at Toronto since their last losing series there Aug. 6-8, 2010.

Scott is 6 for 20 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last five games since missing three with hamstring tightness. He's hit .389 (7 of 18) in his last five games at Toronto.

After David Price improved to 4-0 at Rogers Centre, Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 3.29 ERA) takes the mound for Tampa Bay coming off two completely different starts.

The right-hander allowed three hits in 8 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win over New York in his season debut April 8, then gave up five runs on three homers and walked three in five innings of a 13-5 loss at Boston on Saturday.

"Definitely location,'' Hellickson said. "I've got to execute better than what I did out there. I've just got to throw more strikes. I felt good. Arm felt good. Nothing with the head. ... Just made some bad pitches.''

Hellickson is 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays - both at Toronto.

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is 4 for 5 with a double, triple and home run against Hellickson. He homered for the first time this season at home in Tuesday's 7-3 win over the Rays then went 1 for 3 with an RBI on Wednesday.

Yunel Escobar was 4 for 5 as Toronto (6-5) was held to fewer than three runs for the second time in 2012.

Scheduled Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez (0-0, 2.77) has recorded two quality starts this season and left with the lead in both but has nothing to show for it.

The right-hander allowed a solo homer in six innings of a 4-2 loss to Boston on April 9 and yielded three runs in seven innings of a 6-4 defeat to Baltimore on Saturday.

"I feel I pitched well and gave us a chance to win the game," Alvarez told the Blue Jays' official website after his last start. "After that, it's out of my hands."

Alvarez gave up four runs on three homers in six innings of a 6-1 loss in his only previous outing versus Tampa Bay on Aug. 26.