Josh Donaldson won’t be pleased by the conclusion of the season series between the two American League East rivals when his Toronto Blue Jays visit the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon for the rubber match of a three-game set. Donaldson is 16-for-43 with 12 runs scored, 13 RBIs and eight homers against Tampa Bay in 2017 after belting a two-run shot in Wednesday’s 7-6 triumph that ended a four-game slide.
Donaldson has homered 12 times and knocked in 25 runs in his last 21 contests overall to keep Toronto on the fringes of the AL wild-card race, but the Blue Jays need a major surge to leap over the seven teams in front of them. Tom Koehler, acquired from Miami on Saturday for a minor leaguer, gets his first start for Toronto on Thursday and fellow right-hander Alex Cobb comes off the disabled list to pitch for the Rays. Tampa Bay rallied from five runs down to tie Wednesday, but could not finish the job and win its third straight game for the first time since the beginning of August. Kevin Kiermaier belted two homers in the loss and has been red hot since coming off the disabled list with 10 hits in 21 at-bats, including three blasts and six RBIs.
TV: 1:10 p.m. ET, Sportsnet (Toronto), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays RH Tom Koehler (1-5, 7.92 ERA) vs. Rays RH Alex Cobb (9-8, 3.80)
Koehler makes his club debut in place of lefty J.A. Happ, who was moved back to Friday, and aims for his first win since April 23 against San Diego. The 31-year-old New York native has allowed 15 homers over 12 starts in 2017 after giving up 22 in each of the previous two seasons with the Marlins while averaging 32 ½ outings. Wilson Ramos is 6-for-20 and Corey Dickerson 3-for-6 versus Koehler, who is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts against the Rays.
Cobb makes his first start since Aug. 5 due to a toe injury and has permitted three or fewer runs in nine of his last 11 outings. The 29-year-old Boston native lost despite giving up one run and five hits with six strikeouts versus Milwaukee in his last start and suffered the setback against Toronto on May 7 while yielding two runs over eight frames. Cobb, who is 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA lifetime versus the Blue Jays, has handled Justin Smoak (0-for-11) and Jose Bautista (3-for-15).
1. Ramos is 12-for-20 during a five-game hitting streak and boasts 16 hits (two homers) in his last eight contests.
2. Toronto CF Kevin Pillar launched the tie-breaking homer Wednesday and is 11-for-28 in his last eight games.
3. Rays RHP Alex Colome leads the majors with 37 saves and his next will top his career high that he set in 2016.
PREDICTION: Rays 6, Blue Jays 3