Rays-Blue Jays Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The last two games between Tampa Bay and Toronto have ended with runners getting thrown out at home plate while trying to score the tying run.
With Rays ace David Price taking the ball, the Blue Jays can only hope the series finale will be that close.
The Rays try to salvage a four-game split Sunday as Price attempts to rebound from a rare rough outing with his sixth consecutive winning start in Toronto.
After rookie Moises Sierra threw out Elliot Johnson to end Toronto's 2-1 victory Friday, Rays center fielder B.J. Upton cut down Omar Vizquel on Saturday to preserve Tampa Bay's 5-4 win.
The Rays (72-61) had lost seven straight one-run games since a 3-2 home win over Toronto (60-72) on Aug. 8.
"They did it to us last night, we did it to them today," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said after his team won for the second time in eight games to remain 4 1/2 back of AL East-leading New York. "It feels much better when you're on this side of things."
With the Yankees coming to St. Petersburg on Monday, Tampa Bay will try to build momentum for that key three-game series with Price (16-5, 2.53 ERA) looking to bounce back from one of his worst starts of the season.
The left-hander lasted just four-plus innings in Monday's 6-5 loss at Texas, yielding six runs and 10 hits. Price had won a franchise-record eight consecutive decisions and was bidding for a 13th straight start of at least seven innings.
"It was just one of those days," he told the Rays' official website after his first loss since June 13. "Get back on it whenever I'm going next and get after it in Toronto."
That may not bode well for a Blue Jays team that probably wishes Price's passport issues earlier this week would have prevented him from joining the Rays on their final trip to Rogers Centre in 2012. The Cy Young Award candidate has won twice in Toronto this season and has a 2.27 ERA in winning his last five starts there.
Price is 11-2 with a 2.26 ERA in 14 career starts against the Blue Jays. His highest win total against any other team is seven versus Boston.
The Blue Jays finish this series with Ricky Romero (8-12, 5.50 ERA) attempting to end the longest single-season losing streak in club history.
Despite throwing seven strong innings Tuesday in the Bronx, the left-hander lost his 11th straight decision as the Blue Jays fell 2-1 to the Yankees. Romero has had his share of problems in posting a 7.16 ERA over 12 starts during the skid, but he has only gotten 14 runs of support in that stretch.
"I've been working hard all week, the guys, everyone has kind of been helping me out through this," he said. "I'm just going to build off of this."
If Romero can't do that, he may match the Blue Jays' second-longest string of defeats, set by Jesse Jefferson from Aug. 16, 1978-June 1, 1979. Tom Underwood set the team record nine days later with a 13th straight loss.
Rays right fielder Matt Joyce, who is 2 for 5 with a homer off Romero this season, is batting .355 (11 for 31) with a team-best three homers in Toronto in 2012 after going deep and driving in three Saturday.
Edwin Encarnacion, who has homered in each of the last two games to boost his career-high total to 36, is 3 for 6 with a home run off Price this year.
Updated September 1, 2012