The first two games of the Tampa Bay Rays' weekend series in Toronto couldn't have gone much worse.
The Rays could be in store for another tough go with Andy Sonnanstine set to make a spot start against the high-powered Blue Jays in Sunday's finale.
Toronto took advantage of two Tampa Bay errors to hand the Rays (67-43) a 2-1 loss in the Friday opener. It was a disheartening defeat for a Tampa Bay team battling New York for first place in the AL East, but not nearly as embarrassing as Saturday's 17-11 loss.
Toronto (58-52) hit eight homers, second most in franchise history, in plating a run in every inning but the eighth against a Rays club that leads the AL with a 3.68 ERA. The Blue Jays, tops in the majors with 175 homers, finished with season highs in runs and hits (20).
"You think they're going to get a couple (home runs) during the course of every game, that's just how they're built,' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I guess they made up for not getting any (Friday).'
Tampa Bay, which has not been swept since May 24-26, has lost a season-worst four consecutive games.
The Rays' last victory came Tuesday over Minnesota in Jeff Niemann's most recent start. His next turn was Sunday, but he was scratched with a sore right shoulder. The injury isn't considered serious and Niemann is expected to miss only one start.
That forced Maddon to turn to Sonnanstine (2-0, 4.22 ERA), who is expected to be activated from the disabled list to make his first start of the year.
Sonnanstine, out since July 18 because of a strained left hamstring, has made 30 relief appearances this season. The right-hander hasn't started against the Blue Jays since 2008, and is 2-2 with a 5.92 ERA in seven career games against them.
Sonnanstine threw 1 1/3 innings in his lone rehab start for Single-A Charlotte on Thursday, and has gone longer than three innings only three times this year.
That could spell trouble for Tampa Bay considering James Shields went four innings Saturday, becoming the eighth pitcher in the modern era to surrender six homers in a game.
Aaron Hill and J.P. Arencibia each hit two home runs for Toronto, while Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Lyle Overbay also went deep. Bautista's shot was his major league-leading 34th.
Arencibia, making his major league debut, homered on the first pitch of his first at-bat. The rookie catcher added another first-pitch homer in the sixth and finished with four hits.
"I could never have imagined this, ever,' Arencibia said. "I was pretty surprised because my first at-bat I really wasn't that nervous. I was pretty even-keeled and then after that I was pretty comfortable in the box.'
Arencibia, called up from Triple-A Las Vegas after John Buck injured his right thumb, could be back behind the plate to catch Brandon Morrow (8-6, 4.79).
The right-hander was a little shaky in an 8-6 victory over the Yankees on Monday, allowing five runs in 5 1-3 innings, but managed to win his third straight start. It was the fourth time in six outings Morrow yielded five runs.
Morrow has gone 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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