Rays-Blue Jays Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 30, 2012
Outstanding pitching has been the theme of the second half for the Tampa Bay Rays, but it was the offense that helped them avoid a season-high fifth straight loss. Matt Moore has generally received a nice boost from the Rays' bats - even though he's rarely needed it of late. Moore has allowed seven runs in his last six starts, and he'll try to win a fifth straight decision Thursday night when visiting Tampa Bay opens this four-game set looking to continue its recent dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays (71-59) posted a 1.70 ERA from July 28-Aug. 23, sparking a 19-6 run that catapulted them from 3 1/2 games out of the AL's second wild-card position to a 2 1/2-game edge for the top spot. Tampa Bay totaled 11 runs and fell back out of playoff position during a four-game skid, but the offense got going again Wednesday. Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer in the first inning - one of his two blasts - and B.J. Upton added a three-run shot in the second en route to an 8-4 win that pulled the Rays within one-half game of Baltimore for the second wild-card spot. "We knew we had to jump out fast,'' Upton said. "We did that and kind of kept our foot down after that.'' The Rays improved to 58-10 when they score at least four runs, and they've given Moore (10-7, 2.89 ERA) a team-high 5.58 runs of support per nine innings. Moore gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings Friday against Oakland, leaving without a decision in a 5-4 loss. The rookie left-hander was 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in his previous five starts. "I didn't use my changeup as much as I had been,'' Moore said. "It was more breaking ball and fastball. ... It was a little bit tougher to keep them off balance." Tampa Bay has certainly kept Toronto (58-71) guessing at the plate in 2012. The Rays have won five straight and nine of the last 10 in the season series, posting a 2.05 ERA in that stretch. Moore held the Blue Jays to one run and two hits over six innings in a 7-1 home win Aug. 9 after lasting only four innings in his first career outing at Toronto in May. This will be his first start at Rogers Centre. The Jays are 14-22 against left-handed starters - only Cleveland is worse among AL clubs - but didn't have much trouble against one of the game's best Wednesday. Yunel Escobar went 4 for 5 with a homer and five RBIs as Toronto scored five runs off the Yankees' CC Sabathia in an 8-5 win. By taking two of three, the Blue Jays won their first series since going 2-1 against Detroit from July 27-29. "Anything positive that happens to the club is going to be welcomed right now," Escobar told the team's official website through interpreter Jose Bautista. "Winning a series on the road against the Yankees is something that's definitely positive, and I hope it can bring up the team morale a little bit." Carlos Villanueva (6-4, 3.30) will try to end August on a positive note after going 0-4 with a 4.06 ERA in five starts this month. His worst outing came Friday at Baltimore, where he allowed four runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-4 loss. Villanueva gave up three runs in six innings in St. Petersburg earlier this month to lower his ERA to 11.93 in seven games - two starts - versus Tampa Bay. Ben Zobrist has three hits in six at-bats against Villanueva - all homers.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Michael Vick in talks to retire with Falcons

Hall of Fame pitcher and former U.S. Senator Jim Bunning passes away at 85

Roger Goodell to speak at Rams event, tickets start at $550

Ohio State hails itself as the ‘fastest team in college football’

Get a look at Shia LeBeouf as John McEnroe in Borg/McEnroe movie trailer

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Draymond Green is the most efficient defender in the NBA

It’s not even June, but the San Francisco Giants are probably screwed

Odell Beckham Jr. appears to take shot at Ben McAdoo

Report: Seahawks players feel Sherman bombshell story ‘nailed it’

Turkey: Kanter a member of terrorist group, issues warrant

Chad Johnson says Roger Goodell consulted him on touchdown celebration rule change

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

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!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker