"They're games that you need to win," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston. "They're games that you need to show up and try to win as many of those nine as you can. Very important that we do. [If] you don't play well, they judge you saying, 'Hey you're not that good.' It doesn't matter if you play well. If you lose them, you lose them. It's not like you're playing horseshoes [where] close is good."
Tampa Bay beat Toronto in a three-game series at Tropicana Field in late April, but the Blue Jays are a totally different team right now. Toronto has 53 home runs in May, becoming the first team to break 50 in a month since Cleveland in September 2001. That power stroke has allowed the Blue Jays to hang around the periphery of the pennant race, a standing the Rays are sure to notice.
"Their pitching has permitted that, and their home runs are ridiculous right now," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "They're just clubbing home runs at an alarming rate. That's been their offense. They're not the kind that really does a lot on the bases like we do. I can't say that there's much situational hitting, hit-and-runs and that kind of stuff. But they're jumping the ball over the fence right now."
Jose Bautista has been the main catalyst, and he leads the Major Leagues with 16 home runs. Twelve of those blasts have come in May, tying a franchise record set by Carlos Delgado in August 1999, and tied by Jose Cruz Jr. in August '01. Bautista has hit 26 home runs since the beginning of last September, a total that leads the Major Leagues over that span of time.
Rays: Mix and match lineup
Maddon said Sunday that he doubted shortstop Jason Bartlett would start on Monday, ceding the slot to Reid Brignac. In turn, that could mean that either Sean Rodriguez or Ben Zobrist could start at second base, starting a ripple effect in the lineup. Both Zobrist and Rodriguez played at second base on Sunday, and both also played at another position in the same game.
No matter who starts at the keystone, the Rays will be confident in the man they have on the mound. Matt Garza got hit hard in his last outing and hasn't won in four starts, but he ranks in the league's top 10 in ERA (2.97), wins (five) and innings pitched (69 2/3). Garza has completed seven innings six times this season, and he's held the opposition to two runs or less in seven of 10 starts.
Blue Jays: Piling up wins to go with homers
The Blue Jays have won five of their past seven and 11 of their past 17 games, giving them a head of steam into their confrontation with the Rays. Toronto, in fact, is 20-10 since April 29, accounting for the highest winning percentage in the league over that span. The Blue Jays reached their 30th win this year quicker than they have in any season since 1993, their last World Series championship.
Brandon Morrow will be charged with continuing that momentum, and he'll have to arrest a slide of his own to do it. The right-hander has allowed at least six earned runs twice in his last four starts, and he's completed six innings just four times this season.
Tampa Bay is 24-2 this season when scoring five or more runs and 30-3 when it puts up four or more. ... The Blue Jays can tie the all-time league record for home runs in a month if they go deep five times in Monday's series opener. ... Tampa Bay has outscored opponents 144-69 on the road this season. ... Toronto improved to 6-0 against Baltimore on Sunday for the first time since 1987. The Blue Jays have swept the Orioles in consecutive series for the first time since '01. ... Toronto will activate Brian Tallet off the disabled list to start Tuesday. ... The Rays posted the league's best 50-game record (34-16) since Boston went 35-15 in 2007.
Mon, 5/31 7:07 PM ET
Morrow's no-hit bid stifles Rays in opener
Brandon Morrow, who allowed one run in seven-plus innings, took a no-hit bid into the sixth and Adam Lind hit a two-run homer as the Jays held off a late Rays rally. B.J. Upton hit an RBI triple and scored for Tampa Bay.
Blue Jays Beat
|Pena, C, 1B||2||0||0||0||2||0||1||.175|
|Upton, B, CF||2||1||1||1||1||0||0||.220|
|b-Aybar, W, PH-2B||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||.237|
|Rodriguez, S, 2B-SS||3||0||2||0||0||0||1||.224|
3B: Upton, B (2, Downs, S), Longoria (2, Gregg).
TB: Zobrist; Longoria 3; Jaso; Upton, B 3; Rodriguez, S 2.
RBI: Upton, B (21), Aybar, W (12).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Kapler.
GIDP: Rodriguez, S; Jaso.
Team RISP: 0-for-3.
Team LOB: 4.
PO: Rodriguez, S (1st base by Molina, J).
DP: 2 (Longoria-Rodriguez, S-Pena, C 2).
2B: Lewis, F 2 (18, Garza, Garza), Bautista (12, Wheeler).
HR: Lind (8, 1st inning off Garza, 1 on, 1 out).
TB: Lewis, F 4; Hill, A 3; Lind 4; Wells, V 2; Bautista 2; Overbay; Encarnacion.
RBI: Lind 2 (28), Hill, A (18).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Overbay; Wells, V; Encarnacion.
GIDP: Molina, J; Wells, V.
Team RISP: 2-for-10.
Team LOB: 8.
DP: 2 (Gonzalez, Al-Hill, A-Overbay, Morrow-Gonzalez, Al-Overbay).
Pickoffs: Molina, J (Rodriguez, S at 1st base).
WP: Garza 2.
Pitches-strikes: Garza 99-62, Choate 3-3, Wheeler 6-4, Benoit 9-6, Morrow 91-54, Downs, S 7-4, Camp 11-8, Gregg 19-12.
Groundouts-flyouts: Garza 4-6, Choate 0-0, Wheeler 1-1, Benoit 2-0, Morrow 7-8, Downs, S 0-0, Camp 2-0, Gregg 2-0.
Batters faced: Garza 29, Choate 1, Wheeler 3, Benoit 2, Morrow 23, Downs, S 2, Camp 3, Gregg 5.
Inherited runners-scored: Choate 2-0, Wheeler 2-0, Benoit 1-0, Downs, S 1-1, Camp 1-1.
Umpires: HP: Joe West. 1B: Angel Hernandez. 2B: Paul Schrieber. 3B: Dan Bellino.
Weather: 68 degrees, roof closed.
Wind: 0 mph, None.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media