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Game Thread: Toronto Blue Jays (18-27) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (24-21)


May 17, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) fields a ball during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

And so the roller coaster ride continues…

Mark Buehrle (1-3, 6.33 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 5.82 ERA) 4:37 PM/EST (???)

The last time these two starters faced off I initiated the first of many “Glimmer of Hope” editions here at Jays Journal. That game Buehrle was hammered early and often, giving up seven runs in just his first three frames. Hellickson pitched five shaky yet effective innings allowing 6 hits, 4 walks and 3 earned runs on 101 pitches. Hellickson left with a 7-3 lead after being up 7-0 at one point but didn’t factor in the decision thanks to the “kids don’t try this at home” combination of Fernando Rodney, Joe Maddon and J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays amazingly came back that game down seven runs on the road for the unbelievable 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Since that glorious evening the Jays have continued to give us brief glimpses of hope… only to promptly fall flat on their face or play the Yankees (or both). At least we don’t have to worry about the latter for awhile. But when will this team start to look like the Greatest Show On AstroTurf Gameday Grass?

Take for example Buehrle. For the most part he has been terrible this year and even before this season started doubts were raised about his ability to pitch in the AL East. Soft-tossing lefties generally don’t hold up well in what is probably the toughest division for pitchers in baseball. Many people (myself included) had written him off. But then his next start after the aforementioned shellacking he looked like Mark Buehrle, circa 2005. It was a vintage performance. And as the encore to his inconsistencies, the last time Buehrle took to the hill he allowed five runs but didn’t give up a dinger in the sandbox that is Yankee Stadium, which had been his problem all year. I still have no idea what to expect from this guy… and it’s maddening.

One thing that is for certain is that the Blue Jays need better pitching – the only staff with a worse ERA is the

Houston Astros. Ditto for base on balls percentage (FanGraphs). This makeshift rotation continues to struggle – Ramon Ortiz was shelled last night and the only surprising thing about it was that it didn’t happen earlier. The Blue Jays’ bats almost had another come from behind win last night but it wasn’t enough this time around. The offensive ranks continue to improve but generally awful pitching (omit R.A. Dickey and Casey Janssen) has dug this team into a hole too many times.

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News & Notes:

Jose Bautista has hit .400 his last 8 games against Tampa… Rays are 10-3 their last 13 including 4 of 5 on this road trip… Toronto has lost 7 of last 10 home matchups against the Tampa Bay… Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to 15 games last night and is hitting .400 with 3 HR and 14 RBI during this stretch… He’s also batting .512 with 16 RBIs in a 10-game hitting streak against the Jays… Hellickson is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA his last 5 starts (ESPN)… Blue Jays enter today 10 games back in AL East and 7 games out of Wildcard.

Blue Jays Starting Lineup:

Tampa Bay Rays Starting Lineup: