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Game Notes: Jennings Returns from the DL

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Karns vs Perez in the series opener vs the Rangers

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Entering play on July 28, the Toronto Blue Jays were one game under .500, fourth place in the American League East, and eight games behind the first-place New York Yankees.

And then then they acquired Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies.

The first in a flurry of trades, the Blue Jays made the message loud and clear: they were all in. Before the clock struck 4:00pm on the July 31 deadline, the Blue Jays had added a frontline starting pitcher in David Price, a speedy outfielder in Ben Revere, and a pair of bullpen arms in LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe.

As one of the hottest teams in baseball, their bold moves at the deadline have paid immediate dividends in the standings. The Blue Jays have won 11 consecutive games, including 14 out of their last 15. And in a little over two weeks time, the team up North has erased an eight game deficit, and are now in sole possession of first place in the American League East.

Unlike the Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays made no major acquisitions at this year's deadline. In fact, they exchanged a veteran bat and a solid bullpen arm for a handful of prospects.

But as Ian noted earlier this afternoon, the Rays nonetheless find themselves in the thick of the American League playoff race.

Winners of four consecutive games, including seven of their last nine, the Rays are two games over .500 with 48 games remaining on their schedule. And although they are five games behind the first-place Blue Jays, the Rays are only two games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild card spot.

In tonight's game, the Rays will send Nate Karns to the mound to face off against  Martin Perez and the Texas Rangers.

First pitch is at 8:10 EDT.

Today's Lineups

TAMPA BAY RAYS TEXAS RANGERS
Brandon Guyer - RF Delino DeShields Jr. - CF
Richie Shaffer - DH Shin-Soo Choo - RF
Evan Longoria - 3B Prince Fielder - DH
Logan Forsythe - 1B Adrian Beltre - 3B
Asdrubal Cabrera - SS Mitch Moreland - 1B
Desmond Jennings - LF Josh Hamilton - LF
Tim Beckham - 2B Elvis Andrus - SS
Kevin Kiermaier - CF Rougned Odor - 2B
Curt Casali - C Bobby Wilson - C
Nate Karns - RHP Martin Perez - LHP

--Desmond Jennings will be playing in his first big league game since since April 25 (knee).

--Richie Shaffer gets the start at DH, batting second.

--Here's a look at tonight's starting pitchers:

PITCHER W L ERA FIP K% BB% AVG HR GS IP
Nate Karns 7 5 3.52 3.88 23.1% 8.4% .231 15 22 (22G) 125.1
Martin Perez 1 2 5.81 2.80 14.0% 6.1% .292 0 5 (5G) 26.1

The Book on Martin Perez

After tossing back-to-back complete game shutouts in April of 2014, Martin Perez stumbled through three consecutive outings before he was put on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Tommy John surgery was the diagnosis as Perez would go on to miss the rest of the 2014 season and the majority of the next.

On July 17, the 24-year-old made his return from the disabled list, surrendering three earned runs in five innings against the Houston Astros.

Perez appears to be a victim of bad luck thus far as his .344 BABIP is 54 points above the league average. His poor BAPIP and batting average against (.292), combined with his 51.4 LOB% has led to a fair share of earned runs (17) and an enlarged ERA of 5.81.

Despite his unflattering ERA, his 2.80 FIP is much more palatable. The discrepancy between his ERA and FIP can be attributed to a low walk rate (2.39 BB/9) and the fact that he has not surrendered a home run this season.

Here's a look at his arsenal in 2015. Keep in mind that he has only pitched 26.1 innings at the major league level.

PITCH VELOCITY FREQUENCY vs RHH vs LHH
Fourseam 93 mph

27.44% vs RHH

***

19.53% vs LHH

Middle of the plate and in. Outside corner.
Sinker 92 mph

30.69% vs RHH

***

35.94% vs LHH

Low and away. Low and inside.
Change 85 mph

25.27% vs RHH

***

11.72% vs LHH

Low and away. Rarely thrown, but has been below the knees thus far.
Slider 87 mph

9.03% vs RHH

***

21.88% vs LHH

Rarely thrown, but has been low and inside. Low and away.
Curve 80 mph

7.58 % vs RHH

***

10.94% vs LHH

Sporadic. Low and away.