Evan Longoria has hit safely in every game since he saw the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this month.
His production, however, hasn't always been enough to help the Tampa Bay Rays in the season series.
Longoria is enjoying a career-high 14-game hitting streak and a 23-game run of reaching base heading into Tuesday night's matchup as his Rays try to end the Blue Jays' four-game home win streak.
The third baseman began his hitting streak in the season's first meeting with Toronto (18-26) - an 8-7 loss on May 6 - and is batting .393 with three homers and 14 RBIs during it. He is also hitting .383 with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored and a .649 slugging percentage over his previous 23 contests, and last failed to reach base April 24 against the Yankees.
"It's the best baseball I've seen him play day in and day out, offensively and defensively," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website before the start of this series. "Everything about his game has been superb, and it's been fun to watch."
Longoria has never faced Toronto's Ramon Ortiz (1-2, 2.35 ERA), who will start for the third time after making none since July 10, 2011.
Ortiz has allowed one run in each of the season's first two starts, pitching seven innings in Wednesday's 11-3 victory over San Francisco. It marked the veteran right-hander's first win as a starter since 2007, with Minnesota.
"The key right now is that I have a lot of confidence in all my pitches," he said. "When you have confidence in your pitch, you can throw it any count and that's what we are doing right now."
He'll still have to be careful pitching to Longoria, who is 11 for 21 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the season series, with two hits and two RBIs in Monday's 7-5 loss that opened this three-game set.
Tampa Bay (23-21) is 2-3 against Toronto after going 14-4 in last season's series. The Rays are 7-2 against all other teams during Longoria's hit streak.
The Rays bullpen has been a major culprit in the defeats to the Blue Jays, yielding 14 runs over 10 innings. Toronto scored four times in its final two innings Monday against Tampa Bay relievers, with Edwin Encarnacion doubling in three runs to snap a seventh-inning tie.
Former Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar hit a meaningless two-run homer in the ninth. Booed by the crowd of 29,885, Escobar thumped his chest and made an exaggerated safe sign as he crossed the plate, prompting more jeers."The booing probably promoted the reaction that he had," Maddon said. "I'm going to talk to him about that. I'm certain you're not going to see that again."
Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera is hitting .407 over his last 13 games, going 9 for 23 against the Rays this season.
J.P. Arencibia will likely return to the lineup after manager John Gibbons gave the Toronto catcher Monday off.
The Rays will start right-hander Alex Cobb (4-2, 2.89), who is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA on the road compared to 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA at home.
Cobb won his lone career start against Toronto by yielding one run over seven innings in a 3-2 home victory Aug. 8.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 15, 2013||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left tricep tightness|
|May 08, 2013||Brandon Gomes||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
|May 04, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Left hand contusion|
|April 27, 2013||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|April 25, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|May 11, 2013||Rajai Davis||15-Day DL||Strained oblique|
|May 10, 2013||Rajai Davis||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained oblique|
|May 08, 2013||J.A. Happ||15-Day DL||Head contusion|
|April 29, 2013||Josh Johnson||15-Day DL||Right triceps inflammation|
|April 22, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Sore hamstring|
|April 14, 2013||Sergio Santos||60-Day DL||Right triceps strain|
TORONTO (AP) -- One start ago, Fernando Rodney cost Alex Cobb a win by blowing a save against Boston.
This time, Rodney made sure Cobb went home with a W.
Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings homered, Cobb won for the first time in three starts and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Cobb (5-2) allowed one run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings. The right-hander walked two and struck out two. Thirteen of his 19 outs came on groundballs.
"A lot of groundballs is always what you want to see out of him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "If you're seeing the ball on the ground, you know that everything is working right."
Cobb wasn't happy with his stuff, but battled enough to get his first victory since winning at Colorado on May 5.
"The changeup wasn't as sharp as I'd like it but it was good enough to get a good amount of groundballs," Cobb said. "That's what was key to my success tonight."
Jake McGee got two outs in the seventh before the Blue Jays rallied against Joel Peralta in the eighth. Munenori Kawasaki singled, Melky Cabrera walked and Jose Bautista hit an RBI single. Edwin Encarnacion struck out before Adam Lind reach on a fielding error by second baseman Ryan Roberts .
Roberts redeemed himself when Rodney came on and got J.P. Arencibia to ground into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch, with Roberts and shortstop Yunel Escobar combining.
"I really think Escobar's game was outstanding," Maddon said. "That was a big part of our win."
Arencibia hit a ninth-inning two-run homer off Rodney in Toronto's 8-7 comeback win on May 6, leaving the Rays closer in search of revenge.
"I make the same pitch, maybe more location tonight, get a groundball," Rodney said.
Roberts had entered the game in the seventh after outfielder Matt Joyce left with tightness in his right hamstring. Ben Zobrist moved from second to right.
"I don't anticipate anything bad with that but we had to get (Joyce) out," said Maddon, adding that Joyce was due to get the day off against left-hander Mark Buehrle in Wednesday's series finale.
Rodney gave up a run in the ninth but closed it out for his ninth save in 12 chances. Colby Rasmus hit a one-out double, went to third when pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis grounded out and scored on a wild pitch.
Kawasaki walked but Cabrera was caught looking for the final out.
Blue Jays right-hander Ramon Ortiz (1-2) lasted just 2 1-3 innings, allowing four runs and six hits, including two solo homers. He walked one and struck out one.
"He didn't have it tonight," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "His command was off and that's something he needs."
Evan Longoria doubled to begin the second, extending his hitting streak to 15 games. Longoria advanced on James Loney 's grounder, then scored on Luke Scott 's groundout. Johnson followed with a drive to center, his eighth.
Jennings made it 3-0 by homering on Ortiz's first pitch of the third. Joyce singled but was forced at second on Zobrist's grounder before Longoria chased Ortiz with a single. Aaron Loup came on and got Loney to ground into a fielder's choice, with Zobrist thrown out at the plate, but Scott followed with an RBI single.
Rasmus got the Blue Jays on the board with a two-out homer in the fifth, his seventh, a deep drive off the facing of the third deck.
A single and a walk gave the Blue Jays a chance to tie it with two outs in the sixth, but Escobar ranged behind second base to snare Lind's grounder and throw him out.
"I thought for sure it was a base hit," Cobb said. "It was up the middle. Escobar made an unreal play and finished it off with a great throw."
Cobb left after Brett Lawrie reached on Longoria's throwing error in the seventh. McGee came on and got Rasmus to foul out, then fanned pinch hitter Mark DeRosa .
NOTES: Tampa Bay has won five of six on the road. ... The Blue Jays turned four double plays. ... Rays C Jose Molina (left hamstring) missed his third straight game. ... Blue Jays RHP Josh Johnson (sore triceps) allowed one run in three innings in his first rehab start at Class-A Dunedin on Monday. Johnson will start again for Dunedin on Saturday, and is expected to make a third rehab start before being activated. ... A moment of silence was held before the game to honor the victims of Monday's deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma.