Rays-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press
Rays-Blue Jays Preview
Rays-Blue Jays Preview

Mark Buehrle opened his season with a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. The left-hander has racked up plenty more in the past two months for the surging Toronto Blue Jays.

Buehrle seeks to become the majors' first nine-game winner in Tuesday night's rematch but will pitch opposite Alex Cobb, who will carry a major league-best scoreless streak into his second start back from injury.

Buehrle (8-1, 2.16 ERA) came within one out of a shutout April 2 in Tampa Bay, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out a season-high 11. He hasn't slipped up much since, and is seeking to win a season-high fifth consecutive decision.

Buehrle gave up two runs for the third straight outing Thursday - this time over seven innings - in a 7-2 victory at Boston.

"It's nice, obviously'' to lead the majors in wins, 'but I've always said you can go out your next eight starts and (stink) and be under .500,'" said Buehrle, who is tied with St. Louis' Adam Wainwright for the most wins in the majors. "I try to throw it out the window and get ready for my next start."

Toronto (30-22) defeated Tampa Bay 10-5 in Monday's opener, its seventh straight win and 12th in 14 contests.

Edwin Encarnacion hit his major league-best 13th home run this month while No. 6 hitter Dioner Navarro and No. 7 hitter Steve Tolleson also went deep for the Blue Jays, who have homered in nine straight games.

''They just put the heavy gloves on and beat us up,'' Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "They have such a good lineup and when the bottom contributes like they did today, it makes it even more difficult."

Toronto is batting .317 with 14 homers during its win streak, and hasn't homered in 10 consecutive games since a 12-game run Aug. 6-18, 2011.

The Blue Jays, who won 11 in a row from June 10-23, lead the majors with 73 homers and are atop the AL East this late for the first time since July 6, 2000.

Encarnacion is batting .367 with six homers and 10 RBIs during the win streak, while Melky Cabrera is hitting .407 with two home runs and eight RBIs. Cabrera is also 9 for 21 (.429) this season against the Rays (23-29), who lost for the first time in five games Monday.

Despite being locked in at the plate, the Blue Jays could run into problems against Cobb (1-1, 1.40), who has not allowed a run in his last 21 2-3 innings. In his first start back from a strained left oblique, the right-hander gave up three hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings Thursday against Oakland.

Cobb did not get a decision in his return from a six-week stint on the disabled list because the Rays once again provided him with no run support in a 5-2, 11-inning victory. He's been backed by one run in four starts this season.

"There are never any thoughts other than pitching when I'm on the mound," Cobb told the team's website. "I think peace of mind comes from pitching (batting practices), rehab assignments, simulated games. That was the all peace of mind I needed to go into it worry-free, and the further away from the injury we get, the less it becomes an issue."

Cobb began his scoreless streak in his season debut April 1 against Toronto but gave up four runs in the first four of his five innings in a 4-2 loss. He's 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three career matchups.

Encarnacion went 0 for 3 against Cobb in April, and is 2 for 7 in all-time matchups.

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