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Rays' Maddon says Percival is still closer

Rays trainer Ron Porterfield checks Matt Garza after Marco Scutaro’s liner hit the pitcher’s forearm in the fifth. Garza was fine.

Associated Press

Rays trainer Ron Porterfield checks Matt Garza after Marco Scutaro’s liner hit the pitcher’s forearm in the fifth. Garza was fine.

TORONTO — Troy Percival's latest struggles have not shaken the confidence manager Joe Maddon has in him.

Maddon reiterated Sunday that Percival — who blew his fourth save Saturday and has allowed six runs and four hits in two outings since coming off the DL — will remain the closer.

"The only way I would mix somebody else in is if he's not available on that particular night," Maddon said. "If he's available, he'll go out there."

Percival, 39, said he feels fine, his injured right knee is not an issue and that the problem Saturday was simply mechanical, and he was "pulling" his pitches.

"He didn't make the pitches he wanted to," Maddon said. "He's been out for a while also, and I'm really considering that. He's probably just not throwing the ball exactly where he wants to yet, but he will."

In 24 appearances since first having leg problems in May, for which he has gone on the DL three times (left hamstring twice, right knee once), Percival has a 6.64 ERA, allowing 16 runs, 17 hits (including six homers) and 15 walks while converting 14 of 16 save opportunities. He is 2-1, 4.91 with 27 saves overall.

"His arm is fine, that's not the concern," Maddon said. "It's the rest of him I really have to be vigilant with."

BULLS WIN: Triple-A Durham advanced to the International League championship against the Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes- Barre team with a 9-1 semifinals-clinching win over Louisville. OF Jonny Gomes and C Matt Spring, who had six RBIs, homered to back starter Wade Davis. The best-of-five finals open Tuesday at Scranton.

JACKED UP: Edwin Jackson would seem to have a lot to prove in tonight's opener of the showdown series with the Red Sox. He's coming off his worst start of the season, he has never won in Boston (0-3, 8.18 in five games) and the Rays are skidding.

And he doesn't see it that way.

"There's no need to put any additional pressure on yourself because of the team (you're playing)," Jackson said. "You're looking at every game as big anyway. I think we definitely want to go in and try to get the ball rolling in a good direction and take first blood. That's always the plan."

GOOD GARZA: Starter Matt Garza has reason to love pitching against the Jays, having worked 38 innings over five starts this season and allowed only two earned runs, with a 251/3-inning scoreless streak ending Sunday. But he might hate it, too, with only a 3-2 record to show for it, losing 1-0 Sunday after winning 1-0 Aug. 27.

"It's a give-and-take game," Garza said.

Sunday, he allowed only six hits, and the only run came when Adam Lind doubled to lead off the second, went to third on a grounder and scored on a sac fly.

Garza had seam marks on his right arm after being hit by a line drive in the fifth but stayed in and said he was fine.

BOSTON COMMON: Hanging on to first place would be great, but the Rays just need to win in Boston to prove they can, having gone 0-6 this season. "We really do need to win a game or two in Boston; I've said that from the very beginning," Maddon said. "It's just the mental hurdle you have to overcome by winning in that form of enemy territory."

SWINGING EVAN: 3B Evan Longoria took 30 swings at a ball on a tee and said his previously fractured right wrist felt fine. He will advance to tossed balls today but may not take batting practice until Tuesday. He is hoping to rejoin the lineup on Friday in New York.

MISCELLANY: Speedy switch-hitter Fernando Perez got his first start (in rightfield, ahead of Justin Ruggiano) and may get another tonight. … The Jays swept the Rays for the first time since Sept. 15-17, 2006. It was the fourth time this season the Rays were swept in a series of three or more games.

Fenway folly

Why are the Rays winless in Boston this season? Here are the numbers from those games:

Rays Sox
Wins 0 6
Runs 16 45
ERA 7.88 2.33
Avg. .229 .330
Hits 47 65
2Bs 10 20
3Bs 1 0
HRs 5 5
Walks 18 30
Ks 48 40
OBP .300 .426
SLG .361 .508
OPS .661 .934

Rays' Maddon says Percival is still closer 09/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:48am]

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