Blue Jays-Rays Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 20, 2012
The Tampa Bay Rays have struggled since Jeremy Hellickson's most recent solid performance helped cap a four-game winning streak. With the right-hander back on the mound Monday night for the opener of a three-game series with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay seemingly has a good opportunity to get back on track. The Rays (25-17) have lost three of four after falling 2-0 to Atlanta on Sunday, getting shut out for the first time in 55 games including the postseason. Tampa Bay has lost five of its last seven at home after beginning the season 13-1 at Tropicana Field. ''It has been awkward, strange, weird, whatever you want to call it, but then again we had a chance to win the game again today,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ''In spite of all the adversity we do have, we were in that game and we had a chance to win that game. We went about our business properly.'' The Rays, though, have won four of the first five meetings with the Blue Jays this season, sweeping a two-game set in Toronto last week. Tampa Bay has won 11 of the last 14 matchups overall, with Hellickson (4-0, 2.77 ERA) allowing three-runs - two earned - in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-4 win over Toronto on April 19. Hellickson has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his eight starts, and he remained unbeaten after allowing one run in six innings of a 2-1 win over Boston on Wednesday. His last regular-season loss came against Texas on Aug. 30, winning a career-best six consecutive decisions with a 2.73 ERA in 13 starts since. "I just have to get ahead of guys and throw strikes," Hellickson told the team's official website. "I've been doing that the last few games." Hellickson is 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA in three career starts against Toronto, though Jose Bautista is 4 for 8 with a homer, a triple and double against him. Bautista went 3 for 5 with a homer and two RBIs in Sunday's 6-5 loss to the New York Mets, which ended Toronto's four-game winning streak. He's raised his batting average 40 points while hitting .333 with six homers and 10 RBIs over his last 10 games. Colby Rasmus snapped a 0-for-20 slump with an RBI single. ''It felt great, just hated that we couldn't win,'' Rasmus said. Bautista is 3 for 15 with a home run against Tampa Bay this season for the Blue Jays (23-19), who will send Kyle Drabek (3-4, 3.30) to the mound Monday. Drabek ended a four-start losing streak when he allowed one run and three hits in seven innings of Wednesday's 8-1 win over the New York Yankees. He had received five runs of support in his last 26 2-3 innings over his previous five starts. "I think Kyle has made tremendous strides with his overall composure, the use of his two-seamer, which has allowed for added confidence," manager John Farrell told the team's official website. The right-hander gave up three runs and walked four in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-1 loss May 5, 2011, in his only career start against the Rays.
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