The Tampa Bay Rays hope to catch a break with their upcoming four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays before they engage in a battle with a few American League powerhouses.
The Rays will invade Rogers Centre tonight for the series opener before taking on the Yankees twice, Rangers, Orioles and Red Sox. They salvaged the finale of a three-game set in Texas with last night's 8-4 win behind four home runs, two of which off the bat of Evan Longoria.
Longoria has homered three times in as many games, while B.J. Upton and Elliot Johnson both went deep for Tampa Bay, which also halted a four-game slide and sits just one-half game off the Wild Card lead. Tampa Bay also is four games behind New York for AL East bragging rights.
"We knew we had to jump out to a quick lead and we did that," Upton said. "We kind of kept our foot down and didn't stop."
Jeff Keppinger collected four hits against the Rangers and Alex Cobb settled with a no-decision for giving up four runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Jake McGee posted the win in relief with a scoreless sixth inning.
Matt Moore will take on the Blue Jays tonight and he is 4-0 in his last six starts. Moore did not factor in the outcome of a 5-4 loss to Oakland on Friday and gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings of work. The left-hander, who is 10-7 in 25 starts with a 3.60 earned run average, defeated Toronto with six solid innings on Aug. 9 and allowed one run in a 7-1 decision.
Moore is 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in two career starts against the Jays -- both of which have occurred this season.
Toronto is back up north following a rare series win at Yankee Stadium and is coming off Wednesday afternoon's 8-5 victory.
Yunel Escobar had a big day against New York, going 4-for-5 with three doubles, two runs scored, a home run and five RBI. Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Jeff Mathis each drove in a run to help the Jays take two out of three matchups with the Yankees following a seven-game skid.
"It epitomized a game in which we had contributions from a number of guys. It was a very good game all around," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
The Blue Jays secured their first series win since July 27-29 against the Detroit Tigers (2-1). Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ allowed four runs on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts over five innings for the win. Happ is now 3-1 in nine games -- five starts -- since being acquired from Houston.
Casey Janssen recorded his 17th save of the season in the ninth inning.
Toronto, which is scheduled to host Baltimore as well on this seven-game homestand, will pin pitching duties on the struggling Carlos Villanueva tonight. Villanueva is 0-4 in his past five starts and was banged around for four runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 6-4 loss at Baltimore on Friday.
Villanueva lost to the Rays on Aug. 8 and is 0-2 with an 11.93 earned run average in seven career games (2 starts) against them. The right-hander has made 32 overall appearances this season, 10 of which have been starts, and is 6-4 with a 3.30 ERA. He is 4-1 in 17 games (6 starts) at Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays have struggled against Tampa Bay this season, going just 2-9, and have lost the previous five matchups between the clubs.