Rays-Blue Jays Preview

Evan Longoria has hit safely in every game since he saw the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this month.

His production, however, hasn't always been enough to help the Tampa Bay Rays in the season series.

Longoria is enjoying a career-high 14-game hitting streak and a 23-game run of reaching base heading into Tuesday night's matchup as his Rays try to end the Blue Jays' four-game home win streak.

The third baseman began his hitting streak in the season's first meeting with Toronto (18-26) - an 8-7 loss on May 6 - and is batting .393 with three homers and 14 RBIs during it. He is also hitting .383 with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored and a .649 slugging percentage over his previous 23 contests, and last failed to reach base April 24 against the Yankees.

"It's the best baseball I've seen him play day in and day out, offensively and defensively," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website before the start of this series. "Everything about his game has been superb, and it's been fun to watch."

Longoria has never faced Toronto's Ramon Ortiz (1-2, 2.35 ERA), who will start for the third time after making none since July 10, 2011.

Ortiz has allowed one run in each of the season's first two starts, pitching seven innings in Wednesday's 11-3 victory over San Francisco. It marked the veteran right-hander's first win as a starter since 2007, with Minnesota.

"The key right now is that I have a lot of confidence in all my pitches," he said. "When you have confidence in your pitch, you can throw it any count and that's what we are doing right now."

He'll still have to be careful pitching to Longoria, who is 11 for 21 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the season series, with two hits and two RBIs in Monday's 7-5 loss that opened this three-game set.

Tampa Bay (23-21) is 2-3 against Toronto after going 14-4 in last season's series. The Rays are 7-2 against all other teams during Longoria's hit streak.

The Rays bullpen has been a major culprit in the defeats to the Blue Jays, yielding 14 runs over 10 innings. Toronto scored four times in its final two innings Monday against Tampa Bay relievers, with Edwin Encarnacion doubling in three runs to snap a seventh-inning tie.

Former Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar hit a meaningless two-run homer in the ninth. Booed by the crowd of 29,885, Escobar thumped his chest and made an exaggerated safe sign as he crossed the plate, prompting more jeers.

"The booing probably promoted the reaction that he had," Maddon said. "I'm going to talk to him about that. I'm certain you're not going to see that again.''

Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera is hitting .407 over his last 13 games, going 9 for 23 against the Rays this season.

J.P. Arencibia will likely return to the lineup after manager John Gibbons gave the Toronto catcher Monday off.

The Rays will start right-hander Alex Cobb (4-2, 2.89), who is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA on the road compared to 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA at home.

Cobb won his lone career start against Toronto by yielding one run over seven innings in a 3-2 home victory Aug. 8.

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