Blue Jays-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The Toronto Blue Jays have been among baseball's biggest disappointments, but they're hoping their most complete performance thus far can provide some momentum going forward.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays - one of the majors' best teams at home - are likely looking forward to returning to Tropicana Field for 10 straight games, beginning with the opener of a four-game series Monday night against Toronto.

The Blue Jays (11-21) had lost four in a row and 14 of 18 before a 10-2 home win over Seattle on Sunday. It was the most lopsided victory of the year for the team with the AL's second-worst record, as Toronto matched its highest-scoring game of 2013 and had a season-best 15 hits.

"We were desperate for that. We needed something like that," manager John Gibbons said. "It's not like we're just waiting to get on a roll. We needed a win and they're hard to come by."

Mark DeRosa and Melky Cabrera both provided homers after the team hit one in the previous four games combined. Starting pitcher Brandon Morrow, who allowed three hits in eight innings, called the win a "morale booster."

A victory Monday would give Toronto back-to-back wins for just the second time.

Tampa Bay (14-16) is coming off a 4-5 road trip, capped by winning two of three games at Colorado after an 8-3 victory Sunday.

While they're 6-12 away from home, the Rays are 8-4 in St. Petersburg as they kick off a 10-game homestand. They've allowed no more than one run in six of the last nine at Tropicana Field.

Scheduled starter Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 4.71 ERA) won his last start at home, throwing seven scoreless innings against the A's on April 20, but has since been roughed up in two outings on the road. He gave up a combined nine runs in 11 innings, including a 9-8 loss at Kansas City on Wednesday that saw him yield a season-high nine hits over five frames.

"Defense and offense came to play tonight and I didn't," Hellickson told the team's official website. "It was as simple as that."

Hellickson is 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA in six starts versus Toronto, which counters with struggling left-hander Mark Buehrle (1-2, 6.43).

Buehrle has surrendered seven hits, five runs and three homers in each of his last two outings and lost both. He issued a season-high three walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 10-1 home loss to Boston on Wednesday.

He's allowing 2.3 home runs per nine innings compared to a 1.0 career average.

"I have to make better pitches," Buehrle told the team's official website. "(I) have to keep the ball down, execute pitches and stay low in the zone."

The only current Rays player to homer off him is Jose Molina - that came in 2006 - and Buehrle is 8-3 lifetime against them with a 4.19 ERA.

Tampa Bay's middle infield is shorthanded. Shortstop Yunel Esocbar, a former Blue Jay, didn't play Sunday after getting hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday and is expected to miss a few days, manager Joe Maddon said. Second baseman Ben Zobrist will miss a second straight game after flying home to Illinois on Sunday following his grandmother's death.

James Loney is 17 for 34 over his last eight games with five three-hit performances, but he's 4 for 24 (.167) in six games versus the Blue Jays.

Toronto hasn't won a series against Tampa Bay since Aug. 6-8, 2010, with the Rays going 30-12 in meetings since then. Tampa Bay won last year's series 14-4 as Evan Longoria hit .360 with 14 RBIs in 13 contests.

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