The Toronto Blue Jays had all kinds of trouble against Tampa Bay during the 2010 campaign and hope a new offensive philosophy turns things around this season
Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay went 10-8 against Toronto last season and much of that was made possible by the offensive exploits of Sean Rodriguez, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist. The Rays’ trio combined to knock in 28 runs in 18 matchups last season, but the offense has struggled to average just 3.5 runs in the early going during the 2011 campaign. The team knows that it must play better baseball to expect the same results against tonight’s opponent. “They’re not a whole lot different,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “I have so much respect for their pitching staff. They have very good starters. They really thickened up their bullpen this past winter.” Tampa Bay is 3-3 on the road this season and 84-86 over the past three years away from Tropicana Field.
Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts this season, managing to issue nine walks and collect 14 strikeouts in 18.0 innings of work. The right-hander will be making his second road start of the year, after collecting his only win of the year at Boston two outings back. The second-year starter has a perfect 3-0 record and 4.10 ERA in seven career starts on the road, allowing hitters to hit for a combined .267 average.
Toronto led the Majors in 2010 with 257 homers and finished last in the American League with 58 stolen bases. Three weeks into the season, the Blue Jays have defied the odds by running out of the gates. The team entered Thursday ranked second in the AL with 23 steals and shows no signs of slowing down. “I’ve been on different teams and Spring Training we always have the same conversation,” outfielder Corey Patterson said. “We’re going to run more, we’re going to be more athletic.” Defensively, the team has committed 15 errors in 18 games, ranking 11th among 14 American League teams with a .979 fielding percentage. Toronto is 5-3 at home this season and 95-75 over the last three years.
Blue Jays starting pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts this season, allowing hitters to bat a combined .361 against him. The left-hander has surrendered 22 hits in just 13.1 innings of work. Reyes has made his last two starts on the road, receiving just two runs of support in the process against the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels. He has failed to complete four innings in two of three starts and will be facing the Rays for the first time in his career.
Bettors will likely back the Rays due to their 7-3 record as a road underdog, while the Blue Jays are 1-4 as a favorite.