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Rays' emboldened Jackson continues recent roll

ST. PETERSBURG — With the Rays' starting pitchers, manager Joe Maddon said confidence can become "contagious."

That theory played out Thursday. One day after RHP Matt Garza threw more than seven scoreless innings, RHP Edwin Jackson carried a shutout into the eighth in a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays.

Jackson (11-8) is not only feeding off his fellow pitchers but also a string of recent success (having won six of his last seven starts).

"In that span of wins, it's been some crazy wins and some games I've taken," Jackson said. "You just feed off of it and try to keep it rolling until the next month, the next start."

Jackson said his big improvement from last year (5-15, 5.86) hasn't been about confidence, rather composure, and avoiding the big innings. Thursday's game provided another example. In the sixth, Jackson gave up two straight hits to put runners on first and third with nobody out, but he got out of the jam unscathed. Said Jackson: "Everything fell in place tonight."

NAVARRO EYES RETURN: Though C Dioner Navarro said his hamstrings felt better, the All-Star was held out of Thursday's game and could sit out tonight's series opener with the Orioles.

Maddon said Navarro, pulled from Tuesday's game with cramps in both hamstrings, could catch or pinch hit if necessary, but "we may target Saturday as the game to put him back in."

"I feel a lot better than I did (Wednesday)," Navarro said.

FEELING THE HEAT?: Maddon said he appreciates how his team has raised its level of intensity despite the fact there has been fewer than 15,000 fans at the Trop the last three games. Maddon said having the large crowd makes a difference. They are 16-1 with crowds of 30,000 and more. And though the players don't let it impact their play, they do notice.

"It's disheartening," DH Cliff Floyd said. "We go out there and give everything we have as a team for the fans. We definitely appreciate the 14,000 that are out there. But at the same time, they've asked for a winner for a long time and finally got one."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Closer Troy Percival (cartilage damage in right knee) said everything felt "great" after he threw about 30 pitches off the mound before Thursday's game. Maddon said Percival will likely be ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible Saturday, unless the Rays decide to wait until the rosters expand Monday. 3B Evan Longoria (fractured right wrist) played catch and, according to Maddon, the All-Star's rehab has been "so far, so good." The Rays hope for a return as early as next week's series against the Yankees.

POSTSEASON PROMO: The Rays clubhouse had a Hollywood feel before the game, as MLB Productions was in town to shoot a promotional video for the postseason. Longoria and 1B Carlos Pena represented the Rays. MLB, Fox and TBS will roll out the ads throughout September.

MINOR MATTERS: LHP David Price, the 2007 top pick, started for Triple-A Durham on Thursday, going five innings and allowing four hits and two earned runs against Norfolk. Price was named to the Double-A Southern League postseason All-Star team. … Top pick SS Tim Beckham and second-round pick LHP Kyle Lobstein will be two of 42 players with the Rays instructional league team in St. Petersburg that reports Sept. 14 and plays through Oct. 10.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 11-4 vs. the Jays this year, matching the club record for most wins against an opponent in one season. … RHP James Shields will sign autographs and bag groceries at Sweetbay Supermarket (2525 Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa) at 10 a.m. today. … Executive vice president Andrew Friedman will hold a Q&A, and Will Carroll from Baseball Prospectus will speak at a pregame event today at the Trop (5:45 p.m. at the LF Meeting Room on the fourth floor). For ticket info, call (727) 825-3137.

Rays' emboldened Jackson continues recent roll 08/28/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2008 4:04pm]
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