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Rays battle Jays

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TAMPA BAY RAYS (55-41) at TORONTO BLUE JAYS (45-49)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Tampa Bay -133 & 8.5 under -120

Tampa Bay begins its post-All-Star Break mission to claim the top spot in the AL East with a 10-game divisional road trip that begins in Toronto Friday night.

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Southpaw David Price (3-5, 3.94 ERA) takes the mound for the surging Rays, who enter this game having won 14 of their past 16 contests. He'll go up against Esmil Rogers (3-4, 3.64 ERA) who has been both a starter and reliever this season. The Blue Jays have not won consecutive games since their 11-game win streak ended on June 23, sporting a 7-13 (.350) record since then. Tampa Bay has owned this series in recent memory, going 31-15 (.674) over the past three years in this series, though the Toronto has grinded out a 5-5 record this season, including a 2-1 mark at Rogers Centre. The Rays benefitted from the break with SS Yunel Escobar dealing with a hamstring injury, and he's probable to play after the extra time off. The Blue Jays though, will receive a major reinforcement with OF Melky Cabrera expected to be activated for the game after being out with a knee injury.

Price (1.23 WHIP) isn't having his best season, but he's a tremendous workhorse, going nine innings in each of his past two outings. In those games he gave up a total of three runs with 8 K's and no walks. The start before that on July 2 was arguably his best of the year, giving up no runs on just three hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of an 8-0 win at Houston. Overall, Price has 67 strikeouts in 80 innings this year. He has owned the Blue Jays in his career with a 12-2 record (team 14-2) with a 2.28 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. The most recent of those was an eight-inning effort on May 8 in which he gave up four total runs, though just two were earned, with eight strikeouts and one walk. The one guy who has owned him is All-Star OF Jose Bautista, who has four home runs and a .353 BA in 34 career at-bats. Price has dominated most other Jays though, especially C J.P. Arencibia (1-for-13, 8 K), OF Colby Rasmus (3-for-17, 3 K) and 1B Adam Lind (.194 BA, 9 K in 36 AB). If the Tampa Bay bullpen needs to pitch, it has a middle-of-the-road 3.53 ERA (15th in MLB), but excellent 1.16 WHIP (3rd in majors) this season with 25 saves and 11 blown ones.

Rogers (1.34 WHIP) is coming off a solid outing in which he gave up just one run and four hits in six innings against the Indians. But the last time he pitched at home on July 4, the Tigers lit him up for seven runs on 11 hits in just five innings. Overall, Rogers has a 3.27 ERA and 2-2 record (team is 6-2) in his eight starts this season, but has a 5.74 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in three starts at Rogers Centre. His lone career start against the Rays came earlier this year on June 24, when he gave up four earned runs on seven hits (3 HR) in six innings of a 4-1 loss. He doesn't have the best endurance, averaging just 5.5 innings per start, but that's no problem with Toronto's elite bullpen. Blue Jays relievers have a 2.90 ERA this season (3rd in majors) with a great 1.17 WHIP (4th in MLB) and .224 opponents' batting average (5th in majors) despite 10 blown saves in just 31 chances. Facing the Rays is tough, as they rank among the top-six teams in the majors in runs (449), on-base percentage (.330 OBP) and slugging (.419 SLG).

  
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