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The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays need to make up ground in a hurry if either club aspires to punch its postseason ticket via the wild card. The American League East rivals look to aid in that quest at the other’s expense on Tuesday when they conclude their season series with the opener of a three-game set in Tampa Bay.
The Rays, who reside four games out of the second wild-card spot, hardly looked like a playoff team with losses in eight of nine before posting a 3-0 victory over Seattle on Sunday. Kevin Kiermaier belted a solo homer to improve to 5-for-12 with three runs scored in three contests for Tampa Bay since returning from a 61-game absence due to a hip injury. Although the Rays lead the Blue Jays by one game in the standings, the latter claimed three of four from the former last week and holds a 9-7 edge in the season series. Toronto enters this set on the heels of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, although Kevin Pillar recorded his third-straight multi-hit performance in Sunday’s 6-5 setback and went 4-for-10 with a pair of doubles versus the Rays last week.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), Sportsnet (Toronto)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Chris Rowley (1-0, 2.61 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84)
Rowley has allowed three earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over his first two major-league starts, but was deprived of the win on Thursday after Tampa Bay rallied to tie the game in the top of the eighth. The West Point graduate saw his pitch count elevate in that contest after issuing five walks in five frames. “I just felt like I wasn’t able to command anything,” Rowley told reporters. “I had a lot of arm-side misses. I normally walk a lot of guys - five is entirely too many.”
Archer pitched well in his last outing versus Toronto, however Josh Donaldson’s two homers put a damper on his 10-strikeout performance. The 28-year-old retired 14 of his last 15 batters versus the Blue Jays, against whom he will be making his 24th career start. Archer owns a 6-4 mark with a 3.16 ERA in his previous 23 go-rounds with Toronto.
1. Donaldson collected four straight multi-hit performances last week versus the Rays and is 14-for-34 with six homers, 10 RBIs and 10 runs scored against the club this season.
2. Tampa Bay SS Adeiny Hechavarria had a two-run homer and a triple on Sunday to improve to 5-for-14 with two runs scored in his last four outings.
3. Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista is just 9-for-52 with 19 strikeouts against the Rays this season.
PREDICTION: Blue Jays 3, Rays 2