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Game Preview, Saturday (9/3) vs. Toronto

Rays (55-81) at Toronto (67-67)
4:07; SkyDome (screw the corporate label)
FSN Florida

Well, what can I say? The Rays are bumbling, fumbling, and doing anything, ANYTHING they possibly can to lose the ballgame. After Jorge Cantu hit a three run homer in the top of the third, the Rays just plain laid down and died, putting up goose eggs across the board for the rest of the game, until JoeBo came on and blew the ballgame in the eighth. On the plus side, Hendrickson did have another impressive start, going seven innings and surrendering only two runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out six (impressive, for him). But the pixie dust ended for JoeBo, who surrendered the tying and go-ahead runs in an awful eighth inning. I guess all good things must come to an end, and that was certainly the case for him.

Rays-RH Seth "Big Red" McClung (5-8, 6.54)
TOR-RH Josh Towers (10-10, 4.04)

Big Red returns to the mound today for the Rays, after having his last start delayed and later sidetracked by rain. He pitched only one inning against the Red Sox in an eventual loss before heading off to West Virginia for the funeral of his grandmother. I'm sure I speak for David when I say our thoughts and prayers are with Seth at this most difficult time. But, despite his adversity, he rejoined the team within the last few days and will be taking the mound tonight. In that one inning of work in Boston, Seth surrendered two home runs, but on the flip side, struck out Manny Ramirez and was gone after action resumed. It is impossible to tell how much his grandmother's death played a role in that start, but let's hope Seth feels much better and can clobber a few Jays. He struggled in August, pitching to a 6.35 ERA after going the previous month at 5.10. Keep in my however, the ERA was bloated to 18.00 for the Red Sox start since two runs times nine innings equals 18. Take away that one start, and Seth's ERA is 5.98. Take away two early month clunkers, and Seth's ERA is 2.36. Just something to think about. I do not really count the months in which Lou decided (brilliantly) to use him as a relieverso overall, Seth has looked good in the rotation, and I expect more of that this afternoon and throughout the final starts he has this year. Although these numbers are skewed, seeing as though McClung has faced the Jays only once as a starter this year (7/17, 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 8 K, impressive) several Blue Jays have been good with the bat against him, including most who faced McClung in his first appearence of the year. Anyone wondering how that game went can just check the ERA of 135 he left with after the game. No, not 1.35 or 13.50, his actual ERA was 135. Anyways, OF Alex Rios is 2 for 4 against him with a walk, two runs scored, and two RBI and C Gregg Zaun is 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBI. Let's hope Seth put the breaks on the Rays' five game slide and win one for his grandmother.

Taking the mound for the Blue Jays is righty Josh  Towers, an even 10-10, but with an impressive 4.04 ERA, at least for him. He is coming off a loss, albeit probably one he did not deserve, but got  because of the Jays' anemic offense. He allowed just three earned runs over seven innings. He is coming off his best statistical month of the year, by far, pitching to a 2.49 ERA in August and allowing no more than three earned runs in any of his starts, topped by a complete game shutout on August 12th vs. the Orioles. In fact, he has not allowed more than three earned runs in any start dating back to July 21st. You'd have to go back to July 16th to find the last start in which Towers gave up more than three earned runs. And whom was he playing in that start. Why none other than these Rays. In their second win after the All-Star Break, the Rays rocked Towers by knocking him out after four innings in which he surrendered six runs on ten hits. The Rays, in fact, drove up his ERA 34 points that day, and it has dropped ever since, 81 points, to its current state. But look closer at some of Towers' starts and it appears that luck is driving a lot of his success. He has sureendered five of more hits in each of his starts after facing the Rays, including hit totals of ten, nine, and seven. He also does not generate many outs by himself, and while he doesn't walk many either (a 21:4 K:BB), Towers still leaves the ball in play too much, hence the hit totals. And with balls in play comes fly balls, and in his eight starts following the Devil Rays disaster, he has given up more fly balls three times, with two outings producing the same number for each. The bottom line is, if the Rays can get good wood on the ball and place their hits well, we could make it a looooooong day for this guy, as we did in July. Add in a dash of Jorge Cantu or Jonny Gomes power, and we might knock Towers out very early, I hope. LF Carl Crawford will certainly be glad to see Towers. CC is 5 for 12 off him this year, with two home runs, a double, four RBI, and three runs scored. This game also may be a springboard for Aubrey Huff, who is 5 for 11 off Towers with a homer, an RBI, and three runs scored.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Just to let you know, I am out of the prediction business. After predicting only one game correctly, and even that was a Red Sox win, I have decided to just drop hints here and there, but not out and out say who I think will win. Sound like a plan? Anyways, I'll leave that to all of you. The bottom line is that the Rays have two hitters who hit Towers very well, a guy who they kncoked out in his last bad start almost two months ago. It is hard to tell what to expect from Seth though. Some people rebound from hardships very well, and throw seven shutout innings. Other guys just cannot take it and do badly. Let's hope Seth is one of the former, although it can certainly be understood should he have a bad start. But facing an anemic Blue Jays offense, Seth will have every chance possible to get the win.

Anyways, the lineups should be as follows. Behind the plate will probably be Toby Hall, with Pete LaForest giving him a break tomorrow against the righty David Bush. Expect an infield combo of (in no particular order) Lee-Cantu-Lugo-Gonzalez, and an outfield/DH of Crawford-Gathright-Huff-Gomes.

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!

                  Anna McClung