American League Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, August 31st (All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Rays (71-60) at Toronto Blue Jays (59-71), 7:07 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Tampa Bay - Jeremy Hellickson (8-9, 3.42) Toronto - Brandon Morrow (7-5, 3.06)
(Sports Network) - If Jeremy Hellickson's recent trend has any bearing on the Tampa Bay Rays, they should be in line for a win Friday in the second portion of a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Hellickson has alternated wins and losses over his past six starts and was on the losing end of a 4-2 decision versus Oakland on Saturday. The A's tagged Hellickson for four runs and six hits in his five innings of work and he dropped to 8-9 in 24 starts with a 3.42 earned run average.
The right-hander is 1-1 against the Blue Jays this season and 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in four lifetime starts. Hellickson has pitched well on the road this season, going 4-2 in 10 assignments, and had a root canal on Monday.
Matt Moore suffered a hard-luck loss for the Rays in last night's 2-0 defeat and gave up both runs in the first inning. He lasted six innings, struck out seven and walked three batters.
"Matt wasn't really sharp, but he got through it well," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Only giving up two runs, you would like to believe a starter wins that game. Bullpen did a great job once again. Their (Toronto) guy pitched well too and their bullpen was good."
Evan Longoria had one of the five hits for Tampa Bay, which is 1 1/2 games off the pace for one of the final two Wild Card spots and 4 1/2 games in back of the New York Yankees for the AL East lead.
The Rays have lost five of their last six games.
After taking two of three meetings with the Yankees in the Bronx, Toronto returned home to open a seven-game residency.
Carlos Villanueva and three relievers completed a five-hitter last night, as he fanned seven through six shutout innings for the win. Darren Oliver, Brad Lincoln and Casey Janssen each tossed a scoreless inning of relief, with Janssen picking up his 18th save.
"Obviously a well pitched ball game here tonight for all four guys that took the mound," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "Carlos was fighting a low- grade fever all afternoon and during the six innings he pitched tonight, but he was once again outstanding."
Kelly Johnson's two-run double in the first inning was all the offense Toronto would need. He finished 3-for-4 and Yunel Escobar added two hits in the win. Escobar is batting .387 with a homer and six RBI during an eight-game hitting streak (12-for-31).
Brandon Morrow gets the nod for the Jays tonight and he has dropped two straight and three of his last five trips to the mound. Morrow pitched in Saturday's 8-2 loss at Baltimore and allowed four runs -- two earned -- in 4 2/3 innings. He fell to 7-5 in 14 starts with a 3.06 ERA.
Morrow, a right-hander, lost to the Rays on May 14 and is 4-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 14 career games, 10 of which have been starts, against them.
The Blue Jays are 3-9 against Tampa Bay this season and ended a five-game slide in this series last night.
08/31 10:36:30 ET