MLB

Preview: Twins at Blue Jays

TORONTO -- -- The Toronto Blue Jays' chances of an improbable run at an American League wild-card spot took another hit Thursday afternoon with a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

The Blue Jays, however, can influence the wild-card race in another way starting Friday when they open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins at the Rogers Centre.

After a 1-5 road trip, the Blue Jays (60-67) would have to climb over seven teams to reach the second AL wild-card position. Minnesota, meanwhile, holds the second wild-card spot by a half-game over three teams in a tightly bunched race.

The Twins, who lost 5-1 to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, are 2-3 on their trip that ends with the series in Toronto.

"It's disappointing to have a chance to win the series and then lose the last couple games," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Just not enough offense the last couple nights. They outplayed us. We made mistakes, and they took advantage. We just couldn't get back into the game."

Minnesota will send out right-hander Bartolo Colon (5-10, 6.66 ERA overall) in the Friday series opener against Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ (6-9, 3.90).

The Twins (65-62) have been hit by injuries in the past week: Robbie Grossman (fractured thumb), Miguel Sano (stress reaction in shin) and Jason Castro (concussion). They are 15-9 in August despite losing the last two to the White Sox.

"I think we're still doing well," Molitor said. "These guys are rallying themselves."

They also dealt Brandon Kintzler before the trade deadline.

"They traded their closer and they jumped right back into it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They've got a bunch of gamers, typical Minnesota. Scrappy. … They do things right."

The Blue Jays are 11-10 in August despite being swept by the Chicago Cubs in three games and losing two of three to the Rays on their six-game trip.

Toronto, which reached the AL Championship Series the past two seasons, is last in the AL East, and a major reason has been injuries in the rotation.

Aaron Sanchez, who led the AL in ERA last season, has missed most of the season with blister problems.

Happ, who won 20 games last season, had his season interrupted early by shoulder inflammation. He has been in better form recently. The lefty took the loss Aug. 18 to the Cubs when he allowed nine hits and five runs in five innings. However, in his previous three starts, he was 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA.

Happ is 1-3 with a 5.66 ERA in five career games (four starts) against Minnesota.

He will have had six days between starts when he faces the Twins. In his career, with six or more days between starts, he is 16-6 with a 3.47 ERA.

Colon will be starting on his regular four days' rest. He earned the win Sunday when he allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He became the 18th pitcher in major league history to have at least one win against all 30 teams.

It was his seventh start with Minnesota after signing as a minor league free agent on July 18. He is 3-2 with a 4.46 ERA with the Twins.

The 44-year-old is 2-2 with a 5.77 ERA in seven career starts against Toronto.

Chris Gimenez is expected to catch Colon for the fifth time this season Friday. That battery has combined for a 3.49 ERA. In three games with Castro behind the plate, Colon had a 6.45 ERA.

With Gimenez and catcher Mitch Garver, who also can play first base and the outfield, on the 25-man roster, rookie outfielder Zack Granite was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to replace Castro.

"You're definitely going to miss (Castro)," Molitor said. "For me, a good catcher is kind of like umpiring: When they're doing well, you don't really notice. The game's going along cleanly. They do their job. He's kind of been that guy back there for us."