The surging Tampa Bay Rays will put their five-game winning streak on the line Saturday afternoon when they play host to the Toronto Blue Jays in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay has not lost since getting beat by Toronto in Buffalo, last Saturday.
Since then, the Rays took the third game of that series against the Jays, swept the Indians and beat Toronto 7-1 on Friday night. The Rays had lost five straight games before going on their latest run.
There are two games remaining until the All-Star break with the series finale on Sunday.
“We wanted to finish strong going into the break and end this half because we played a very good first half,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said following Friday night’s win.
“We have two games left and we do feel better about where we are right as to where we were a week or 10 days ago. I’m just encouraged with the whole team effort.”
Starting against the Rays on Saturday is Ross Stripling (3-4, 4.06 ERA), who faces Tampa Bay for the second time in a week after taking a no-decision in Toronto’s 6-3 win last Saturday.
That win gave the Blue Jays the series win as they ended up taking two of three from the defending American League champs.
Toronto comes into Saturday’s game with losses in three of its past four.
“If we can finish strong, I think that’d be awesome momentum heading into the second half,” said Stripling, who gave up one run on two hits in 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.
In two games against Tampa Bay this season, Stripling has a 0.71 ERA and has given up just one earned run over 18 2/3 innings in five career appearances against the Rays.
Stripling was winless in his first six starts with a 7.20 ERA but has a 2.35 in has past eight with just one loss.
Tampa Bay will start lefty Ryan Yarbrough (5-3, 4.34), who picked up the win as the Rays salvaged the final game of the series last Sunday in Buffalo.
In Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win, Yarbrough gave up one run — on a two-out homer from Randal Grichuk — over five innings. Following Grichuk’s homer, Yarbrough retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.
Yarbrough, who struck out five Sunday, is unbeaten in his past 11 appearances, which is tied for the second such longest streak of his career. During that run, Yarbrough is 4-0 with a 4.03 ERA.
“I wanted to keep the tempo up and stay aggressive,” said Yarbrough, who is 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 15 career appearances with seven starts against the Blue Jays.
The last time he faced Toronto at home, he went 5 2/3 scoreless innings on April 24.
Yarbrough is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in three starts and eight appearances against Toronto at Tropicana Field.
On Friday night, Cash handed the ball to his bullpen after four innings and got what he called an “elite” performance as the Rays held Toronto’s potent offense to one hit over the final five innings.
Andrew Kittredge, who pitched the fifth and sixth, picked up the win after striking out two.
“Really strong performances from our bullpen,” Cash said. “To hold that offense to one run — well, no runs — says a lot.”
–Field Level Media