Posted September 21, 2012 on AP on Fox
Florida_news_1b5c
The Tampa Bay Rays hope a comeback win can spark a last-ditch postseason push. Given their history with the last-place Toronto Blue Jays, they seem to be in good position to pick up a few more victories. James Shields looks to continue his dominance over the Blue Jays when he takes the ball for the Rays in Friday night's series opener. Tampa Bay (80-70) appeared headed toward its eighth loss in 10 games Thursday as it trailed Boston 4-1 heading into the ninth inning. But the Rays tied it on Desmond Jennings' two-run single and one batter later, B.J. Upton ended the game with a three-run homer, lifting Tampa Bay to a 7-4 victory. "That last inning we dug deep,'' Upton said. The Rays remained 5 1/2 games behind the second AL wild-card slot, but are running out of time with only 12 contests remaining. "That was definitely the Rays' magic of old,'' said Matt Joyce, who led off the big inning with a single. "Hopefully we can muster up a lot more of it in the last couple of games here. Anything is possible.'' Tampa Bay desperately needs to string several wins together, and a home series with Toronto should help. The Rays are 11-4 against the Blue Jays, and have won the last five meetings at Tropicana Field. Evan Longoria is batting .316 with a homer and nine RBIs in 10 games against Toronto, while Ben Zobrist has a .403 on-base percentage with two homers and eight RBIs in 14 games. Zobrist has also been a major thorn in the side of scheduled starter Carlos Villanueva (7-5, 3.42 ERA), going 4 for 8 with three homers and four walks. Shields (14-9, 3.77) has also given the Blue Jays fits, going 4-0 with a 1.11 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 40 2-3 innings in five starts against them since the start of last season. In that span, Yunel Escobar is batting .167 in 18 at-bats off Shields, while Edwin Encarnacion is 1 for 12 and Adam Lind and Kelly Johnson are each 1 for 11. Escobar is eligible to return Friday from a three-game suspension he received for wearing eye-black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston. He apologized and said he meant it to be a joke. The Blue Jays (66-82) lost each game Escobar was suspended, and with Thursday's 10-7 defeat to the New York Yankees, Toronto is ensured of a second straight losing season. Encarnacion returned Thursday after being sidelined for three games with a sore right big toe and singled twice. He has five homers and 12 RBIs against the Rays this year. Villanueva is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 12 innings in two starts against Tampa Bay this season. The right-hander has yielded three runs or fewer in 13 of 16 starts since entering the rotation at the end of June, but has been backed by three runs or less 13 times leaving him with a 5-5 record. He pitched well enough to win Saturday against Boston, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings, but the Blue Jays lost 3-2. Shields gave up four runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Yankees. It was the first time he permitted more than three runs since July 26, having gone 6-1 with a 1.90 ERA in his previous eight starts. The righty faced Toronto once over that stretch, allowing only a single to Adeiny Hechavarria and homer to Colby Rasmus in eight innings of a 4-1 victory on Aug. 7.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Shields dominates, Rays hang in playoff race

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- James Shields pitched seven shutout innings and Tampa Bay's suddenly potent offense scored runs in bunches Friday night to help the Rays continue an uphill battle to remain in playoff contention with a 12-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Ben Zobrist and Jose Molina homered in support of Shields (15-9), who limited the Blue Jays to six singles...

Rays hold 'Star Trek Night' at Tropicana Field (Video)

The Tampa Bay Rays hosted their first ever "Star Trek Night" at Tropicana Field during Thursday night's game against the Boston Red Sox. Fans were encouraged to attend the game in Star Trek costumes, so many fans dressed as Klingons and Star Fleet officers. We couldn't help but notice that there weren't many younger fans dressed in costume, unlike...

Johnson takes up offer, makes fan's day

Getting a baseball player to autograph a baseball or T-shirt has always been among the most common sights at a game. Getting a baseball player to respond to a tweeted invitation to come out of the clubhouse and play a little game of pre-game catch in the parking lot? That's taking it a step further. But that's what Tampa Bay Rays utility infielder Elliot Johnson did on...

With little room for error, Rays take on Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays' offense has awoken over the past three games, but there's a very real possibility it's too late to make a difference. With their margin for error dwindling, the Rays look to stay hot at the plate while running their winning streak to four Saturday night as they continue this three-game set with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Tampa Bay (81-70) hit...

Eliot Johnson plays catch with a fan

This certainly is unique. Getting Blanked brings us this video of Rays utility infielder Elliot Johnson playing catch with some fans before Tampa Bay's 13-3 blowout win over the Red Sox. What lot/section? RT @chrisbelltb: @elliotjohnson9 We are in the lot, we have chairs waiting you want to come out, maybe play catch? — Elliot Johnson (@ElliotJohnson9) September...

Rays' ninth inning rally keeps hope alive

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. The ball soared off B.J. Upton's bat in the bottom of the ninth inning late Thursday night, carrying with it a touch of the magic that has eluded the Tampa Bay Rays this season and keeping their long-shot playoff hopes alive just when the lights seemed to be flickering out. All Upton needed was to loft the shot deep enough to score pinch-runner Elliot Johnson...

Joe Maddon Says Rays are Alive and Kicking in Playoff Race, Remain 5 1/2 Games Out of Wild Card (Video)

After losing four straight games, the Rays are back in the win column after beating the Red Sox 13-3. Joe Maddon spoke to the media after the game and said, "We are alive and we're kicking and we've just got to keep getting on a nice toasty streak would be good, we have to get hot." The Rays are 5 1/2 games out of the now all-important second wild card spot that...

Rays go for back-to-back win against Boston

Although his team's late-season slump could prevent him from a shot at the most important trophy, David Price still has a good chance to take home a very nice piece of hardware. Seeking to become the American League's first 19-game winner, Price's first order of business Thursday night against the Boston Red Sox will be helping his club to much-needed back-to-back victories...

Series Recap: Rays split series with the Red Sox

The Tampa Bay Rays found themselves in a hole early in the series. Coming off a road trip that included five of six losses to the Yankees and Orioles, the Rays saw their playoff hopes slip a bit more during the first two games against the Boston Red Sox.  After losing the first game on Monday, the Rays seemed to have possibly bounce back on Tuesday. The Rays jumped to a 3-0 lead...

Rays 7, Red Sox 4

B.J. Upton hit a game-ending, three-run homer off Vicente Padilla, capping Tampa Bay's six-run ninth inning and lifting the Rays to a sorely needed 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night. Tampa Bay salvaged a split of the four-game series and remained 5 1/2 games back of Oakland for the second AL wild-card slot. The Rays (80-70) have 12 games left on their schedule...

Rays find lost offense, pound Red Sox 13-3

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Rays manager Joe Maddon is not so beholden to his charts and statistics to indulge the occasional hunch or wild notion. So amid a streak where the Rays have lost four straight and seven of eight, Maddon joked on Thursday that he might have found the answer: he lost a prize pair of his iconic eyeglasses bought in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, just...

Red Sox Stick With Winning Formula to Squash Tampa Bay's Playoff Hopes

After struggling mightily all month, the Red Sox finally seem to have found something resembling a groove, winning four of their last five games and dealing a healthy blow to whatever remaining hopes the Tampa Bay Rays had of sneaking into postseason play. Likewise, the Sox have more or less stuck with the same group of starters throughout, and that won't change on Wednesday...

Rays overcome 4-1 deficit in 9th to beat Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Three outs away from taking a third loss in four nights against the Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays rediscovered a missing piece from their recent playoff teams. "We've been missing a little of the magic this year, and it doesn't' get much more magical than that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said after his club rallied with six runs...

Rays Walk Off on Sox to Split Series

Clay Buchholz pitched himself 7 strong innings, however the Rays would rally in the 9th and walk away with a way to split the series with the Sox.  Andrew Bailey showed the first real sign of struggle since he has been back from injury and ended up allowing 5 runs to score in the 9th.  It was another gut punch of a loss in a long line for the Sox. Buchholz took the mound and pitched...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.