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American League Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, August 8th (All times Eastern)

Toronto Blue Jays (53-56) at Tampa Bay Rays (57-52), 7:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Toronto - Carlos Villanueva (6-1, 3.19) Tampa Bay - Alex Cobb (5-8, 4.60)

(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Rays hope to continue their recent dominance over American League East rival Toronto when the two teams resume a three-game set in St. Petersburg.

The Rays won the opener of the series and topped the Blue Jays for the seventh time in eight tries when James Shields pitched eight solid frames and Tampa Bay welcomed back star third baseman Evan Longoria with a 4-1 victory.

Longoria, a three-time All-Star, returned from a lengthy hiatus after suffering a partially torn hamstring on April 30 and helped the Rays end a 24- inning scoreless streak. He was the designated hitter and batted clean-up, and finished 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly.

Shields (10-7) surrendered just one run on two hits with six strikeouts and one walk. Fernando Rodney struggled with his command at times, but escaped the ninth unscathed to post his 33rd save. In the process, Rodney extended his scoreless-innings streak to 22, a new franchise record for a relief pitcher.

"The guys had a little different spark today," Shields said. "I don't know if it's because Longo is back. We swung the bats well today and made some good contact early on."

Desmond Jennings had two hits and scored twice for the Rays, who snapped a two-game slide.

J.A. Happ (0-1), making his first start as a Blue Jay after four relief appearances, surrendered four runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk over 4 1/3 frames. Colby Rasmus homered for Toronto, which saw a brief two-game winning streak come to an end. They've lost seven of their last nine games.

Tampa Bay, which was 41-44 during Longoria's absence, is now six games behind New York in the AL East and 1 1/2 south of Baltimore.

Toronto will try to get back in the win column behind Carlos Villanueva, who had won four consecutive starts before allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings in a 5-3 loss at Seattle last Wednesday. In one career start against Tampa Bay, the right-hander surrendered a career-high eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings in August of 2011.

The Rays will counter with Alex Cobb, who halted a personal three-start skid last Wednesday by hurling seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 triumph in Oakland. Cobb has never faced the Blue Jays.

Tampa Bay traditionally dominates Toronto in Central Florida and has won 15 consecutive home series against the Blue Jays, including taking two of three from them in late May.

08/08 10:47:09 ET