Toronto (69-70) vs. Rays (59-82)
7:15; Tropicana Field
NO TV-Radio: Rays Radio/1250 AM
Well, looks like Mr.Second Half again appeared, thankfully, last night in the Rays' 7-4 win against NewYork. The Rays didn't score their runs all at one time as they did in Wedneday's loss,rather, they spread 7 runs over four innings in the early, middle, and late part of the game. With the win,the Rays take the series, and extend their overall record this year against NewYork to 11-5, or, essentially, the opposite of whatthe Bucs' record probably will be this year. MarkHendrickson continued hisstring of very good starts, he just went one inning too long last night, or he would have hadashutout, surrendering four runsin the seventh. The Rays bullpen shut New York down the rest of the way however, and the Rays end their road trip a decent 4*5, including four wins over their final five games.
The Rays are now in for a quick six game home set against Toronto and New York,and if their seasonso far is any indication of what the Raysmight do on the `stand, shooting for 4-2 is a minimum. Get out to the Trop on Saturday for RaysBaseball at the Ballpark Day, and on Friday for Hispanic Heritage Night. Hell, come out on Sunday,and watch the Rays finish off a sweep against the birds who waited a little too long to migrate back up north. The Yankees series? Meh, give or take. But this weekend should be very fun, so get out to the ballpark! The Rays only have six more home games after this, a three game home set against the Yanks next Tuesday through Thursday, and a three game set at the end of the season vs. the Orioles Sept. 30-Oct. 1. So not many more chances to see your Rays this year, so get out to the ballpark!
TOR-RH Josh Towers (10-10, 3.91)
Rays-RH Seth "Big Red" McClung (6-8, 6.16)
BREAKDOWN: Oh no, do we have to face this guy again? Josh Towers absolutely shut us down in his last start up in Tornto, it just isn't fair for usto have to see him twice in six days. The Blue Jays' righty has already notched career highs in wins, starts, and IP, and is on a roll as of late. Because of the Jays' anemic offense, he is only 4-3 since the All-Star break, but again, W-L records mean diddly squat when you have put up a 3.00 ERA. And this isn't in just two or three starts, he has taken the rubber ten times. Last time out against the Rays, the "Towering" pitcher went eight innings, giving up two runs, only one of which was earned, on five hits. In another example of his bum luck since the All-Star break is the fact that Towers got the loss in that game because closer Miguel Batista surrendered a game-winning home run to Travis Lee with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. He has faced the Rays three other times this year, doing very well, to the tune of one earned run in all but one of those starts. But when it rains, it pours, and in the other one, Towers surrendered six runs, all earned, on ten hits over four innings. Let's hope we get that Josh Tower tonight.
Be it because of his stuff, or just because he was up against the Blue Jays offense, Seth McClung had one of his best starts of the season last time out against the Jays, surrendering only two earned runs on JUST TWO HITS over eight innings, pitching very strongly and walking off with the win after Travis Lee walked off with that home run. Dating back to his August 13th start against the Indians, McClung has surrenedered no more than three earned runs in any of his starts, and throwing out the rain delayed outing against the Sox two starts ago, McClung has a ERA of 2.30. That is impressive. What's more, Seth did it after the death of his Grandmother, whodied shortly before he took the mound in the Bosston start. But McClung has pitched very well since being moved into the rotation, and throwing out no starts, he has pitched to a ERA of 4.91, not that impressive, mind you, but a helluva lot better than his bullpen-inflated ERA of the first two months. McClung did okay in his only other start vs. Toronto, giving up three earned over six innings, and did awful in his two relief appearences vs. Toronto, but as far as I'm concerned, that period never happened. Let's just hope Seth can keep up the hot hand tonight.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is, as mentioned over at RaysBaseball, Toronto has an awful offense and good pitching, while the Rays have horrible pitching and a good offense. The difference is, the Rays have been doing very well in the pitching department as of late, and if they can stay out of middle relief by working Big Red into the seventh or eighth, all is well and dandy. The Jays continue to struggle to reach and hold a .500 record, finally pulling to within one game of the mark after the series loss to the Rays up at SkyDome (screw the corporate label). With us having a hot hand, a home date, and our top three pitchers taking the hill, I feel very good about our chances in this series. Will I be taking a broom Sunday? My Magic 8 ball says 'Check Back Later'??? Bah. We'll go ahead and say I WILL be taking the broom, Magic 8 balls be damned.