Blue Jays-Rays Preview
Having won a series in Tampa Bay for the first time in more than seven years, the Toronto Blue Jays will try to complete an unprecedented three-game sweep there and extend their win streak to five games.
If he can continue to progress from a rough outing last month, Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi could make it difficult on the Blue Jays on Thursday night.
Before a 7-4 victory Wednesday, Toronto (71-67) hadn't won two of three at Tropicana Field since April 6-8, 2007. Adam Lind had four hits, and Edwin Encarnacion and Dioner Navarro each homered in their club's third straight road win.
The Blue Jays moved within 4 1/2 games of Detroit for the AL's second wild card, but three teams in front of them also won Wednesday.
Toronto will try for its first three-game sweep in Tampa Bay with Mark Buehrle (11-9, 3.50 ERA) on the mound. The Blue Jays swept two games at Tropicana from Sept. 28-29, 1999.
"For one series we were able to get the monkey off our back," manager John Gibbons said. "Now we've got to get greedy and go out and win that one tomorrow, come up with a great series."
Buehrle took his eighth loss in nine decisions Friday with a 6-3 defeat to the New York Yankees. He pitched six scoreless innings before getting charged with four runs in the seventh.
Buehrle, who has a 6.20 ERA in his last eight starts, is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his four against the Rays this season. He gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings in a 5-4 victory in 10 innings Aug. 23 in Toronto.
The Rays (67-73) are 3-7 since they took two of three at the Rogers Centre and have lost eight of their last 11 home games.
Odorizzi, though, provided a bright spot with his 7-0 win over visiting Boston on Saturday.
The right-hander scattered one hit and three walks while striking out seven in seven innings to bounce back from a miserable showing in Baltimore on Aug. 25. Odorizzi was charged with career highs of eight runs and 11 hits, including four homers, in four innings in a 9-1 loss to the Orioles.
"He was awesome," catcher Ryan Hanigan said."The biggest thing was his tempo. He got the ball and just went. He wasn't thinking too much. Changed speeds, got ahead and all four pitches were working."
Odorizzi (10-11, 4.03) claimed a 10-3 victory in his only start against Toronto this season July 12, allowing three runs in 6 2-3 innings and fanning seven.
He might want to pitch carefully to Navarro, who has homered in three of his last four contests against the Rays and hit two in this series. The former Tampa Bay catcher is also 13 for 30 (.433) with three homers in his last 10 overall games and went 1 for 3 against Odorizzi in July.
The Rays' Logan Forsythe is 6 for 10 with two doubles this season versus Buehrle but 2 for 27 in his last 12 games.