The Rays are coming off of an abysmal series in Texas in which they were swept- giving the Jays a breath of hope that the Rays aren't going to run away, leaving them mired in the AL East basement with Baltimore.
As it stands the Rays are holding-on to a 1.5 game lead over Toronto as they prepare for another 3 game set v. the Jays starting today in Tampa. The Rays have slipped back to 4.5 games behind New York and 5.5 behind Boston.
Here's the potential match-ups for the Toronto series (with some random thoughts added in for flavor):
Tuesday, July 7th @ 7:08
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP (0-0, -.--) vs. James Shields, RHP (6-6, 3.50)
Rzepczynski will make his major league debut tonight against the Rays' "ace" James Shields. Shields is coming off a loss against Toronto last week during which he allowed a career high 3 home runs. The Rays should be able to jump on this kid early, and put a few runs on the board to ensure that they end their current losing streak at 3. I'm thinking a final score of something like 8-2.
Wednesday, July 8th @ 7:08
Brian Tallet, LHP (5-6, 4.38) vs. Scott Kazmir, LHP (4-5, 6.79)
In this battle of the lefties we'll get to see Kazmir make his third start since being recalled, and with any luck we'll see him keep his pitch count in-check and make it out of the fifth inning (hey, a boy can dream). Tallet started the season in the bullpen, but has adjusted nicely to a starting role. He is 2-0 lifetime (as a reliever) against the Rays with an ERA of 1.72 . This should be a close game, but I can't help but believe that the Rays will find a way to win. Let's go with a 4-3 final, in favor of the Rays.
Thursday, July 9th @ 12:08pm
Roy Halladay, RHP (10-2, 2.79) vs. David Price, LHP (2-3, 5.21)
I can't seem to find a way to envision this one turning out well. My confidence in Price has been falling faster than GM stocks, and Halladay is about as good as it gets, so even if Price were at the top of his game I'd still be hard pressed to find it in me to go against Halladay. Halladay has struggled a bit since returning form the DL and Price struggled mightily in Texas having to be lifted after only 1 and 1/3 innings of work, so neither pitcher has been sharp as of late. Sadly, I think the Rays blow the opportunity for the sweep and lose big, lets say to the tune of 9-3.
Oh yeah, and if your listening Prof, this would be a great chance for the year's first Live Blog-a-Baloo over at Rays Index.
All in all a series win is a series win, and that's all we can ask for. Make no mistake though, winning this series is just as important as winning any other series they've played to this point of the season. If the Rays stay locked in a battle for third place with the Jays all season then the Sox and Yanks will just run away with the division. The Rays must dominate the Jays' season series in order to climb the ladder back to their rightful place atop the AL East.