Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tampa Bay - Jays series preview

Jays hope to salvage road trip - not likely

After getting swept in Seattle and losing Travis Snider, then seeing Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie exit the same game, things looked pretty hopeless for the Jays for the road trip.

The Jays last series win at Tropicana
was in April 2007
But the team pulled out two very gutsy (and lucky) wins on Saturday and Sunday to give them some confidence for the plane ride to Tampa. The Trop has been very unfriendly to the Jays. The last time the Jays won a series at Tropicana Field: April 2007, when Roy Halladay took the deciding game 6-3. Casey Janssen made the save. So, I think a 1-2 performance in Florida, while disappointing, is the new par for the course.

It's difficult to win the AL East without going through Tampa, and when you can't win a series on the road, the best you can really hope to do against Tampa is go 7-11 or 8-10 for the year.

Tampa is suffering from a hitting outage as well, scoring 25 runs in the past 10 games and getting shut out by Baltimore in their last two games. However, Longoria is being activated for the game and his .329/.433/.561 bat will be a very welcome return.

Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie likely will be back for the series in Tampa, though I would expect to see Hechavarria, Gomes, and Sierra make a start perhaps. Jose Bautista and Adam Lind will not make appearances this series, and Arencibia won't be back anytime soon.

Look for a starting lines up of Lawrie - Rasmus - Edwin - Johnson - Escobar - Cooper - Davis - Mathis  - Gose for tonight and Wendesday's game and a different look for the Thursday afternoon game against the lefthander.

Tonight's matchup features J.A Happ in his first start as a Blue Jay. Farrell stated that the relief appearances really don't count as he is not a reliever, and certainly, Happ has had a rougher first inning in his relief appearances, which is normal for a starter. Don't expect Happ to wow you. He has been inconsistent this year pitching for Houston, having bad outings (>3 runs, <6 IP) in 6 of 18 of his starts. He will walk 2.5/9 and strike out 8.5/9. If he has a consistent start, look for him to hang in there against Tampa. There will the benefit of pitching in the AL for the first time, so the hitters haven't really seen him. And The Rays counter with James Shield (on 6 days rest), who shut out Oakland in a 3 hitter in his last outing, but in the previous 7 outings, has had only one quality start.

Expect a low scoring game, but I think the Rays will pull out a 4-3 squeaker tonight.

Tomorrows matchup features Carlos Villanueva who is 6-1 with a 3.19 ERA and Alex Cobb (5-8, 4.60 ERA). Cobb has had two very good starts following a couple of poor outings. Villanueva has been very very good as a starter so far for the Jays. I think this one will be close as well and the result of the game depends on which Cobb shows up. I think the Jays will take this one 6-3.

Finally, Thursday afternoon's game features Henderson Alvarez (7-8, 4.47 ERA) vs Matt Moore (8-7, 3.84 ERA) in a lefty-lefty matchup. Matt Moore has had 17 scoreless innings, but in the last two games, he threw alot of pitches (103 and 104) to get throw 6.1 and 5.1 innings respectively. Nevertheless, he has been very very good in his last four starts. Henderson had been fairly inconsistent this year. Look for Tampa to take this one in a 6-2 victory.

Things to look forward to this series is the return of Lawrie and Rasmus to the lineup, the continued play of David Cooper, and the major league debut of Chad Jenkins. Anthony Gose will get some more play and we'll see if his bat continues to improve.

Don't expect Toronto to win the series in Tampa.

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