Rays need to find win column against Blue Jays

After playing themselves back into the postseason race, a recent slump by the Rays has them back in urgency mode.

Tampa Bay hopes to avoid a fifth loss in six games this evening, but must contend against Toronto Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero in the second contest of a three-game series.

The Rays posted an 11-4 mark from Sept. 3-18, notching six wins over the wild card-leading Red Sox in that span. However, they have lost four of their last five games, with last night's 5-1 defeat dropping them 2 1/2 games behind Boston, which had its game versus New York rained out. Those two clubs will play a doubleheader on Sunday.

David Price took the loss for Tampa Bay as he committed a pair of errors in the third inning, getting charged with five runs -- two earned -- over his six frames.

"David had great stuff tonight," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. "Not just good stuff, he had great stuff tonight, and those two plays pretty much undid us."

Brandon Morrow hurled seven scoreless innings for the Blue Jays, who got a solo homer and RBI single from Kelly Johnson to win for the sixth time in nine games.

"I'm trying to finish strong," Morrow told Toronto's website. "Last time was a good way to start and I kept it going this time. Just being aggressive and even when I was falling behind in counts, first couple of innings, not taking anything off to try and make a pitch."

Tampa Bay can't afford to give away runs tonight as it faces Romero, who has won eight of his past nine decisions.

Romero is 15-10 with a 2.98 earned run average in 31 starts this year, but was unable to secure a third straight victory on Monday versus the Angels despite going nine innings. He gave up two runs, both on solo homers, and struck out five as Toronto won in the 10th inning.

The 26-year-old left has pitched at least six innings in each of his last 12 starts and is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts versus the Rays this season.

The Rays start Jeff Niemann, who is aiming for a third straight victory.

The right-hander is coming off a victory in Boston last Saturday as he gave up two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings. That came one outing after he limited the Orioles to a pair of runs in 7 2/3 frames of a victory.

Niemann, 28, is 11-7 with a 3.95 ERA on the year and holds a career mark of 4-3 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 career meetings with the Blue Jays. He has split a pair of starts against them this season.

Tampa Bay is 10-6 against the Blue Jays this season, though the Jays ended a five-game slide in the series with a 7-3 win on Aug. 29 at Rogers Centre before winning last night's game.