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For starters: Rays looking for third straight win

Austin Pruitt faces the Blue Jays tonight at the Trop.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Austin Pruitt faces the Blue Jays tonight at the Trop.

The Rays (62-65) look to make it three wins in a row for the first time since they took three during the first three days of the month at Houston.

Austin Pruitt faces the Blue Jays (59-66) tonight at the Trop. Before that, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will address the media about a variety of topics, the Rays stadium search chief among them.

As for tonight, the Rays hope the offense that has scored 15 runs in its past three games continues against Jays RHP Marcus Stroman.

They begin the night four games back of the final Wild Card spot.

Here are the lineups:

 

JAYS

Pearce LF

Donaldson 3B

Smoak 1B

Bautista RF

Morales DH

Pillar CF

Goins SS

Barney 2B

Lopez C

Stroman RHP

 

RAYs

Kiermaier CF

Duda DH

Longoria 3B

Morrison 1B

Souza RF

Dickerson LF

Ramos C

Miller 2B

Hechavarria SS

 

Pruitt RHP

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Rays morning after: Secret to Alex Colome's success is staying cool, calm, collected

Alex Colome said the key to his effectiveness is not altering anything, especially his locked-in focus on getting the final outs.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Alex Colome said the key to his effectiveness is not altering anything, especially his locked-in focus on getting the final outs.

The ninth inning couldn't have started much worse for Rays closer Alex Colome on Tuesday, who took over with a 6-4 lead and quickly allowed a single and a double to bring the tying run to the plate.

And he couldn't have handled it much better, allowing one run on a sac fly but nothing else in logging his majors-leading and career high matching 37th save in the 6-5 win over Toronto.

"That's kind of what makes Alex special is that it's second and third with no outs and six pitches into the inning, we have a two-run lead and his demeanor doesn't change as if he had gotten two outs on six pitches and nobody was on base,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "That kind of sets him apart and he puts himself in that category of being able to handle those pressure situations."

Colome said the key is not altering anything, especially his locked-in focus on getting the final outs.

"I never change,'' Colome said. "I try to be always be the same pitcher on the mound. I don't do anything if I make a mistake. I try to be calm on the mound to keep the ball down. ... I don't care if I have men on base or if I have bases loaded, we just have to make the out."

His teammates appreciate his determination. …

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Trevor Plouffe is DFA'd by Rays, Kittredge recalled for now

INF Trevor Plouffe didn't do much with the opportunity the Rays gave him, and time ran out Tuesday when he was designated for assignment after the game.

Plouffe hit just .178, with one homer and two RBIs, in 31 games for the Rays, his primary playing time from starting at first or third against lefties.

But he became somewhat expendable when the Rays at the trade deadline acquired Lucas Duda, who provides a capable, albeit also left-handed, option to Logan Morrison, and then Saturday added another right-handed bat in claiming oF Cesar Puello off waivers from the Angels.

If Plouffe clears waivers, which seems likely, the Rays could send him to Triple-A to play regulary then recall him Sept. 1 when rosters expand.

The Rays needed to open a spot on the roster on Thursday to activate RHP Alex Cobb from the DL for his start, but took action Tuesday so they could add RHP Andrew Kittredge to the bullpen for the day to provide backup as RHP Austin Pruitt is starting coming off a rough outing.

Plouffe, who spent the bulk of his career with the Twins, was acquired in a June 17 cash considerations trade with the A's, who also had DFA'd him. …

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For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row

Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 5:52: Cash said the off-day should have done the Rays good after losing 12 of their last 16 games and 20 of their last 30, with just one day off in that stretch:

"I hope everybody kind of kicked their feet up and rested. After what we just had gone through the last three weeks, it was probably good to get an off-day, not come to the ballpark, not see each other, not see me. And now come back a littlel energized, a little fresher and start winning some series.''

UPDATE, 5:25: Manager Kevin Cash remains confident the Rays can get back on a roll and make up ground lost in the wild-card race. ... RHP Matt Andriese (hip) will make his next rehab start on Wednesday for Triple-A Durham. ... RHP Alex Cobb said he is "good to go" and set to start on Thursday. .. Cash said new OF Cesar Puello is likely to make his first start this week.

Jays lineup:

Aoki rf
Donaldson ss
Smoak 1b
Bautista 3b
Morales dh
Pearce lf
Montero c
Pillar cf
Goins 2b
Rowley p

DEVELOPING: Coming off Sunday's win over the Mariners - just their fourth in the last 16 games - the Rays are looking to make it two in a row tonight as they take on the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series. …

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Commissioner Manfred to visit Trop Wednesday for Rays-Blue Jays

Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

AP photo

Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

And so is Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg.

And they are scheduled to meet with the media.

But before you get excited - or riled up - know it's not to make any big announcement on the stadium or the overall future direction of the Rays, just part of Manfred's regular visits to see teams and stadiums during the season.

The timing is interesting in that the Rays are getting closer to picking a site for a potential new stadium, considering options in both Pinellas and Hillsborough, but are not expected to make a decision until after the season, and possibly not until the end of the year.

And it's also worth noting that with the Rays once again last in the majors in attendance (15,876 average), that Manfred will be here for a Rays-Blue Jays game not likely to draw much in the way of a crowd.

Manfred tries to see as many teams as he can during the season; he was in Milwaukee a few weeks ago.

 

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Rays series preview: Who are the Blue Jays?

Third baseman Josh Donaldson hit four home runs in as many games against the Rays last week.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Third baseman Josh Donaldson hit four home runs in as many games against the Rays last week.

Last week, the Rays faced the Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre, dropping three of four. This week, they'll play three games at Tropicana Field. Here's the information you need to know about Toronto before the action kicks off.

Record: 59-65, fifth in AL East
Record vs. Rays: 9-7
Record since last facing Rays: 0-3

In the packed race for the second American League Wild Card, the Blue Jays — like pretty much everyone else — have failed to separate themselves from the pack. They won the four-game series against the Rays last week, but the Cubs swept them out of Wrigley Field over the weekend. Still, unless Tampa Bay takes all three of these games, Toronto will have the advantage in the season series, which could make a big difference come October. As the season draws to a close and the Rays jockey for a playoff spot, they'll need to beat their AL East foes.

"Starting pitching and power have carried the Toronto Blue Jays to the brink of the World Series in two straight seasons. Both have been much harder to come by in 2017, but the tide has started to turn recently and the results, unsurprisingly, have improved." (Scott Mitchell, TSN) …

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Rays morning after: Kiermaier toasty despite long layoff

Kevin Kiermaier was moved to the top of the order to provide a spark to a flatlining offense.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Kevin Kiermaier was moved to the top of the order to provide a spark to a flatlining offense.

CF Kevin Kiermaier batted .330/.372/.594 in his last 27 games before suffering his right hip fracture June 8 against the White Sox while sliding feet first into first base.

He missed the next 61 games, returning Friday against the Mariners, where he was moved to the top of the order to provide a spark to a flatlining offense.

He has done that with five hits in his first 12 at-bats that include a double, a home run and a run scored in each game, taking a season slash line of .265/.336/.424 into tonight’s game against the visiting Blue Jays.

“I can honestly say I feel great and hopefully create havoc for the rest of the season,” he said after Sunday’s 3-0 win, where he was 2-for-4 with a leadoff homer in the first inning that stood as the winning run.

This after having only three hits in 26 at-bats over a minor league rehab start with Class A Charlotte that was interrupted by a lower back strain.

Kiermaier talked before Friday’s game about how his lack of hits for the Stone Crabs wasn’t an issue, because he was seeing the ball well and making good contact – barreling up pitches as the hitters like to say.  …

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Rays morning after: Hechavarria gives fans reason to forget

Beckavarria?

Heckham?

For one afternoon Rays fans could take their minds off Tim Beckham and how he’s tearing it up in Baltimore. All it took was a great day at the plate and another spectacular play in the field by SS Adeiny Hechavarria.

Hechavarria, whose presence helped play a role in Beckham being traded to the Orioles, tripled to center in the third inning and hit a two-run homer to center in the seventh to help ice the Rays 3-0 win against the Mariners.

He ended the game with a diving stop and throw to first base on a smash by Nelson Cruz.

It was a play for the highlight shows. Hechavarria dived to his right, made a back-hand stop on the ball, then jumped up and made a perfect throw to 1B Logan Morrison.

Manager Kevin Cash said it was nice to get a win then added, “It ended really well with Hechy’s play and also Hechy’s big two-run homer to give us a little breathing room.”

Hechavarria led off the third inning with the triple but, what else? Was stranded.

He made sure he scored in the seventh with his third home run of the season and his second since joining the Rays on June 27. His seven total bases tied a career-high.  …

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For starters: Rays place Faria on DL, lineups vs. Mariners

The Rays lost another starting pitcher to injury. This time it is rookie RHP Jacob Faria, who was placed today on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Thursday with a left abdominal strain.

The Rays have had three members of the rotation on the DL this month – RHP Jake Odorizzi (lower back strain), RHP Alec Cobb (turf toe) and now Faria.

Faria said he has been dealing with pain in the area during his last two starts but pitched through it. It became an issue in Toronto, forcing him to tell the training staff here was an issue. His between starts bullpen session was pushed back to Saturday, and Faria didn’t complete it because of the pain.

Faria said he didn’t want to go on the DL, but knows it is best for himself.

It also allows the Rays to slip Cobb back into the rotation.

The rotation for the upcoming series with the Blue Jays is: RHP Chris Archer, RHP Austin Pruitt and Cobb.

Sending Faria to the DL also brought the team more time in deciding who goes after claiming OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from Anaheim.

Puello was added to the roster this morning after Faria was placed on the DL.  …

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Inside the Rays continuing historically bad slump

The numbers tell the story of the Rays inexplicable ongoing offensive slump, and the words detail how tough it has been to deal with.

Over their last 14 games - since returning from Houston where they won the last three games against the Astros - the Rays have been brutally bad, scoring just 24 runs, hitting .192 overall (86-for-449) and a stunning .098 with runners in scoring position (8-for-82).

The 24 runs are the fewest in franchise history over for a 14-game stretch, and the fewest over that period for any AL team since the 2013 Astros scored 21 during their 111-loss season.

"It's been perplexing,'' manager Kevin Cash said before Saturday's game. "It's beyond frustrating. The guys are frustrated for good reason. We could deny it and say that we're not but that's - I better watch what I say - but we're frustrated, there's no doubt. We're gonna try and do everything we can to stay positive through those frustrations, to kind of stick together, lean on each other to get through this, get that crooked number inning, and hopefully that turns us on.'' …

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For starters: Rays vs. Mariners, with another new look

UPDATE, 5:12: Cash said the experiment of having Longoria hit 2nd is over, that they didn't get the "immediate results" they were looking for and he will go back to the No. 3 slot he is more comfortable with. ... Also, Kevin Kiermaier will stay at the top of the order as the primary leadoff hitter. ... Cash said RHP Alex Cobb looked good throwing live batting practice to a couple of minor-leaguers and then more in the bullpen, and they expect him to rejoin the rotation against the Jays next week. ... Cash said RHP Matt Andriese was "fine" after being hit on the left ankle by a ball two pitches into his rehab game Friday, but as a result will need to make two more starts in the minors, which pushs his return back to around Sept. 2. …

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Rays morning after: Kiermaier shows he can 'rock 'n' roll'

Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Lucas Duda in the sixth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on Friday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Lucas Duda in the sixth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on Friday.

Kevin Kiermaier’s return to the lineup was one of the lone positives Friday during the Rays 7-1 loss to the Mariners at Tropicana Field.

He said before the game that his body felt great after missing 61 games because of a right hip fracture and a lower back strain and he was ready to “rock ‘n’ roll.”

Kiermaier did just that in the sixth inning when he used his speed to produce the Rays lone run of the night.

He started with a hit to left-centerfield that he turned into a double by turning on the jets after rounding first base and making any throw to second useless. It was the “hustle double” that Rays have grown fond of over the years and missed while he was sidelined.

After crossing to third on a grounder to second by Evan Longoria, Kiermaier easily scored on Corey Dickerson’s fly ball to center.

“It’s been since June that I did that,” Kiermaier said. “A long wait for that to happen again. Hopefully, you’re going to see plenty more of that the next couple of months. All I want to do is whatever it takes to hit the ball hard and run around and the let the big guys drive me in.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he was pleased with how smooth Kiermaier looked while fielding his position.  …

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Rays series preview: Who are the Mariners?

Starter Erasmo Ramirez will face the Rays after they traded him to the Mariners in July.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Starter Erasmo Ramirez will face the Rays after they traded him to the Mariners in July.

The Rays are back home again, duking it out with another club in the American League Wild Card chase — the Mariners, who have a slight advantage over Tampa Bay. Here's the information you need to know about Seattle before the action kicks off.

Record: 61-61, third in AL West

With about a month-and-a-half until the end of the season, 12 of 15 AL teams have a realistic shot at the playoffs. The Mariners are one of them — they're only 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, and 1.5 games ahead of the Rays in that regard. Seattle's position players have carried it to this point; they've formed one of the most potent offenses in baseball, and they've excelled in the field as well. On the flip side, the rotation has been consistently terrible (more on that in a moment), and the bullpen leads the majors in blown saves. In a Mariners series, expect to see a lot of runs on the board.

"This Mariners' season has gotten grim. They lost 11-3 to the Orioles Monday night, suffering their fifth consecutive defeat. It's becoming more apparent that the Mariners are going to extend their playoff drought to 16 years, falling now two-and-a-half games out of the wild-card race." (Jim Moore, 710 ESPN) …

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Rays morning after: There (really) are still reasons to be optimistic

Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.

[Getty Images]

Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.

There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the Rays' chances to get out of their extended skid and make the playoffs, including veteran 3B Evan Longoria's acknowledgement after Thursday's game that the pressures of the race may be getting to them.

But there - really - are still some reasons to be optimistic, as they are 60-63 and have 39 games left and are only three games, though five teams, from a wild-card spot.

Here are three: …

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Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'

"We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

"We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.

The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

"We've got to turn it around,'' Cash said. "You can only delay it for so long and say there's time, there's time. Time is of the essence. We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we matchup well against that team or not, forget it. We have to play good baseball."

The Rays faced the Mariners in Seattle in early June and were swept in a three-game series.

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