The Toronto Blue Jays look to capitalize on a key homestand, beginning on Friday night when they open a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays have their sights set on the American League's second wild card spot, after watching their deficit in the AL East swell from 1 1/2 games to 9 since the start of August. Toronto currently sits four games back of Detroit in the wild card race.
The Blue Jays picked up a much needed 9-5 victory in Milwaukee on Wednesday after losing six of their previous seven games. The offense came alive with 15 hits, seven of which came off the bats of the No. 1-3 hitters in the lineup. Jose Bautista homered to help cap a five-run sixth inning. The nine runs marked the team's highest output in a game since July 28.
"In reality, that's baseball. You go through those stretches," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They didn't get a couple of two-out hits, might have made a difference in the game too. Sometimes the pitcher is pretty good, sometimes it doesn't take much to just miss a ball."
After having Thursday off, the Blue Jays now begin a nine-game homestand.
For Tampa Bay, Friday's opener kicks off a stretch of 26 straight games against AL East foes. The Rays just dropped two of three at home to the Tigers this week, and following this series they'll continue their road trip with a four-game set at AL East leader Baltimore.
On Thursday, Tampa Bay managed a 1-0 victory over Detroit despite just one hit for the game, an RBI triple by Brandon Guyer in the opening frame. From there, Tigers starter David Price went the distance and mowed down the final 23 Rays batters he faced in his return to Tropicana Field. But Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb was the victor of this pitching duel, as he pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed only two hits while notching six strikeouts.
"Really lived up to the billing, or the advertising prior to the game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It just happened we won. ... I talk about it all the time. In order to beat a good pitcher, you have to outpitch him. In a very small and perverse way, we did."
Maddon will give the ball to Drew Smyly for Friday's series opener. The left- hander tossed seven innings of two-run ball against the Yankees in his Rays home debut last week. It was the second straight outing he went at least seven frames after piling up nine strikeouts with no earned runs allowed at Texas in his previous start.
For Toronto, Marcus Stroman looks to rebound from last Friday's start against the White Sox, in which he did not get out of the first inning. The right- hander coughed up five quick runs on five hits after going the distance against Detroit six days earlier.
"There's a lot of emotion that goes into this game, you want to do everything in your power to put your team in a position to win, and I did everything but that," Stroman said of his effort.
In addition to the short outing, Stroman is coming off an extra two days' rest.
Toronto has a 6-4 edge over the Rays in the season series.