Time may have already run out on the Tampa Bay Rays' playoff hopes despite their impressive victory Friday night. The Toronto Blue Jays could soon be joining them if their starting pitching continues to get pummeled.
The Blue Jays hope Mark Buehrle can avoid what would be the longest single-season home winless stretch of his career and help end their tailspin Saturday against Tampa Bay.
Toronto's starting pitchers have posted a 5.81 ERA during the club's 5-13 stretch, the worst in the majors since Aug 1. Marcus Stroman gave up five earned runs over five innings in Friday's 8-0 loss to the Rays. It marked the sixth straight game in which a Blue Jays pitcher failed to put together a quality start.
Unlike Wednesday's 9-5 win over Milwaukee, Toronto's bats were also silent - singles by Jose Reyes and Steve Tolleson accounted for their only hits.
"I figured we'd come out there tonight with a little more energy," manager John Gibbons said. "We didn't have it and we made some mistakes."
Gibbons will look for Buehrle (11-8, 3.38 ERA) to help provide a turnaround, though he's winless in a career worst-matching six straight home starts in the same season for the first time since April 15-June 11, 2003, with the Chicago White Sox. He went eight straight home outings without a victory from Aug. 9, 2007-May 22, 2008.
The left-hander is 1-7 with a 4.79 ERA over his last 13 starts overall, though the Blue Jays (65-63) have won five of his last seven. That includes their 6-3 victory over Chicago last Saturday when he allowed three runs - all in the sixth - and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings in his first start on his former home field since leaving the White Sox following the 2011 season.
Buehrle is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in three matchups against Tampa Bay this season. He gave up two runs and nine hits over five innings without a decision in Toronto's 8-5 road win July 11.
The Rays' second straight shutout that followed a four-game skid pulled them within two games of the Blue Jays, though they still need to overtake five teams for the second AL wild-card spot.
It marked the ninth time the Rays have posted back-to-back shutouts, but they've never strung together three in a row.
Tampa Bay (63-65) enjoyed a big night from Evan Longoria, who homered on the first pitch he saw and finished a triple short of the cycle with three RBIs. Matt Joyce also doubled and is 12 for 27 against Toronto this season.
The Rays will look for success from Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist, who are a combined 16 for 40 off Buehrle. Jennings was 2 for 5 with a walk Friday.
Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 2.56) gets the nod for Tampa Bay, having given up one run over 13 innings in two road starts. However, he comes off a 4-2 home loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday after giving up three runs and four hits - all in his fifth and final inning.
The right-hander was well-acquainted with the Blue Jays in 2013. He was one of 13 major league pitchers to start against the same opponent six times last year, going 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA.
Jose Bautista has hit Hellickson hard, going 8 for 23 with three homers, a double and a triple.