New Phillies manager Gape

ST. PETERSBURG [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jalen-reeves-maybin-jersey]Jalen Reeves-Maybin Jersey[/url] , Fla. — Tropicana Field has not been kind to J.A. Happ.

Five years ago, Happ took a line drive directly to his head, hitting him behind his left ear and fracturing his skull. He fell to the ground hard enough that he strained ligaments in his knee, and it would be three months before he returned to the mound.

Happ will start for Toronto in Thursday’s series finale, and while he’s been back to the Trop nine times since his injury there, he’s won only once, in that same 2013 season, in just his third game back from injury.

Happ is off to a solid 8-3 start with a 3.71 ERA, and he’s 4-0 in his last five starts, taking a full run off his season ERA along the way. One of his three losses this season came against the Rays, giving up three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings in a May 4 loss where he walked more batters (four) than he struck out (three). On Friday against Baltimore, he was especially sharp, throwing seven innings and allowing only two hits and a single unearned run.

And while he’s struggled at Tropicana Field, his overall career numbers against the Rays are better, with a 3-4 record and 5.05 ERA — he has just one win in 10 appearances against Tampa Bay over the last four seasons.

Tampa Bay, trying to push through a rash of injuries to its starting pitching, continues to experiment regularly with “openers,” using relievers as part of bullpen days to start about half their games in recent weeks. Nowhere is the Rays’ desperation more glaring than with Thursday’s starter, Wilmer Font, who is already playing for his third team this season.

Font pitched six games with the Dodgers, then four with the Athletics, and he’s now made five appearances with the Rays. He’s 0-3 on the season with a 9.59 ERA, but in his five games with Tampa Bay, he’s fared much better, with a 3.24 ERA and 0-1 record. In those five games, he’s thrown 8 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits. In his last outing, also a makeshift start, he lasted into the third inning Friday against Seattle, but gave up two runs on two hits, getting five of his seven outs via strikeout.

Font has actually faced Toronto already this season while with Oakland — staked with the ninth inning and a 9-0 lead, he gave up a two-run home run to Yangervis Solarte.

The two American League East rivals went into Wednesday’s game within a half-game of each other in the standings, still well ahead of last-place Baltimore.

Toronto gets Thursday off before beginning an interleague stretch at home, with three games against the Nationals, then two against the Braves. The Rays, meanwhile, go on the road for the next week [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-calvin-johnson-jersey]Calvin Johnson Jersey[/url] , with four games at the Yankees and three at the Astros, then returning home with seven of their next nine again against the Yankees and Astros.

With apologies to Little Orphan Annie, the sun’ll come out today.

Considering the month the Kansas City Royals just went through, and that they’re currently in often-overcast Seattle, that was no guarantee.

No team in baseball will be happier to flip the calendar than the Royals, who are coming off the worst June in their 50-year history.

“I’m ready to turn the page and start over in July,” Royals manager Ned Yost told The Kansas City Star. “It’s just kind of a reset. We’re out of there, it’s done; it’s behind us. Let’s go on to July and see what happens.”

How bad was June?

The Royals went 5-21, tied for their fewest wins in the month (and that came in 1981, when they went 5-5 as the season was interrupted by a work stoppage).

They scored four or fewer runs in all but two games, including 21 of the past 22, and never won back-to-back games.

Kansas City scored a major league low 58 runs in the month, 29 fewer than runner-up Tampa Bay (87).

They batted .193 (162-for-839), the worst month in franchise history (the 1992 Royals hit .207 in April), and had 10 hits in a game just once.

“It’s not frustration,” Yost told MLB.com of his club’s rough June. “Well, that’s a lie. We’re all frustrated. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen an offensive drought like we’ve had all month long. It’s pretty puzzling. There’s no answer for it.”

One of the few bright spots for the Royals was the performance of rookie right-hander Brad Keller (2-2, 2.25 ERA), who is scheduled to face Mariners left-hander James Paxton (7-2, 3.65) in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.

In his last outing Monday, Keller pitched seven innings, allowed just two hits and struck out six in a 2-0 victory against the Angels, getting his first win as a starter.

The Angels hit just one ball out of the infield against Keller and never got a runner past first base.

“It was pretty super-duper,” Yost said. “Just banging strikes, on the attack, everything that you want. Just a great pitching performance. Never was in any real trouble and had the game in total control.”

Keller became just the second Royals starter to throw at least seven shutout innings while allowing two or fewer hits within his first five major league starts. The other was Mel Stottlemyre Jr. (now the Mariners pitching coach) in 1990.

“I was able to keep the ball down, keep them off-balance,” Keller said after his last start. “Slider felt really good and made some adjustments in the bullpen prior to this game, and it felt really good.”

Paxton, who is 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA in five career starts against Kansas City, will be facing the Royals for the second time this season. He didn’t get a decision in a 4-2 Seattle road victory on April 11, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out 10.

Paxton had nearly identical statistics in his last start Tuesday in Baltimore, allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts in a 3-2 victory.

“(Paxton) came right after them, right out of the chute,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I thought he was outstanding.”

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