Published September 21, 2012
| Sports Network
The Tampa Bay Rays try to stay in the postseason mix and win their third straight game on Friday when they open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
Tampa's fleeting hopes got a huge boost on Thursday when it rallied from three runs down to post an improbable 7-4 win over the Boston Red Sox in the finale of a four-game set. B.J. Upton's three-run game-winning homer capped a six- run ninth for the Rays, who are now 5 1/2 games back of Oakland for the final AL wild card spot.
"We've been missing a little bit of the magic this year, but it couldn't get any more magical than 2nite," Rays manager Joe Maddon said via his Twitter account. "There has never been any quit here."
Getting the call for the Rays in the opener will be righty James Shields, who is 14-9 with a 3.77 ERA. Shields was roughed up a bit by the New York Yankees on Saturday, as he allowed four runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"I've got some bullets left. I've thrown a few innings this year," Shields said. "But right now, I feel really good. My body feels good."
Shields beat the Jays the last time he faced them and is 10-5 lifetime against them with a 3.40 ERA in 20 starts.
Toronto, meanwhile, will counter with righty Carlos Villanueva, who is 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA. Villanueva surrendered just two runs on four hits to the Red Sox on Saturday, but took a no-decision in 3-2 loss.
"I'm glad I was able to keep the team in it," Villanueva said. "Go deep into the game. It was nice being out there for the first time this year in the eighth inning."
He tossed six scoreless innings to beat the Rays back on Aug. 30 and is 1-2 in eight games (3 starts) against them with an 8.41 ERA.
Toronto is still licking its wounds after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees that culminated with a 10-7 setback on Thursday.
Moises Sierra homered and drove in three for the Blue Jays, who have dropped seven of their last nine.
Aaron Laffey (3-6) was touched for five runs -- four earned -- on two hits and five walks over three-plus innings to take the loss.
Tampa is 11-4 this season against the Jays and has won its last five at home against them.