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Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801


Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Jays game

    The Heater

    RHP Tommy Hunter has been so good emerging as the top set-up man for closer Alex Colome with a dazzling run, but twice in five days he has given up a game-losing homer, Sunday to Cleveland's Austin Jackson and Thursday to Toronto's Justin Smoak.

    Manager Kevin Cash's reconfiguring of the lineup changes the look for most of the hitters, such as moving Evan Longoria up to No. 2, but the bigger benefit should come later in games in better matchups as managers work around alternating right- and left-handed hitters....

  2. Rays morning after: There (really) are still reasons to be optimistic


    There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the Rays' chances to get out of their extended skid and make the playoffs, including veteran 3B Evan Longoria's acknowledgement after Thursday's game that the pressures of the race may be getting to them.

    But there - really - are still some reasons to be optimistic, as they are 60-63 and have 39 games left and are only three games, though five teams, from a wild-card spot....

    Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.
  3. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    "He gave us more than enough of an opportunity to win," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's had a handful of games where he's looked like he did tonight. He was dominant. You take one batter of the lineup he kind of had his way with some good hitters."...

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the sixth inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, August 12, 2017.
  4. Rays vs. Mariners, 7:10 Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $15-275; available at Tropicana Field box office,; surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.

    Promotion: $7.11 upper level seats with coupon from 7-11 stores.

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers...

    Seattle Mariners stating pitcher Erasmo Ramirez throws during the second inning of the second baseball game in a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  5. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The signs of frustration were readily apparent as the Rays trudged toward home Thursday after another game littered with squandered opportunities evolved into another wasted day in the wild-card race with a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

    "You can see it in the dugout, you can see it in the clubhouse. There's not really a way to try and loosen it up," team leader Evan Longoria said....

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter reacts as Justin Smoak circles the bases after hitting a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth.
  6. Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'


    The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

    "We've got to turn it around,'' Cash said. "You can only delay it for so long and say there's time, there's time. Time is of the essence. We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we matchup well against that team or not, forget it. We have to play good baseball."...

    "We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.
  7. For starters: Rays at Jays, with Longoria moved to No. 2 spot in order


    UPDATE, 3:10: Cash said the change was made primarily for two reasons, to change the look for several of the hitters and to get back to alternating lefty and righty hitters to make it tougher for opposing managers to match up relievers. Cash said he plans to stick with this structure for a while but doesn't consider anything permanent. "I'm trying, we're all trying to find what works,'' he said. Longoria, who has a long-stated preference to hit third, said he was fine with the move. "It  doesn't bother me one bit. I just want us to get going,'' he said. ...CF Kevin Kiermaier (hip, back) will play what could be his final rehab game tonight with the Stone Crabs and rejoin the Rays on Friday. ... RHP Alex Cobb (toe) will throw off the mound again Friday eyeing a return to the rotation next week.

    Here is the Jays lineup, with no Bautista or Pillar:
    Aoki rf
    Donaldson 3b
    Smoak 1b
    Morales dh
    Pearce lf
    Carrerra cf
    Montero c
    Goins ss
    Barney 2b
    Rowley p...

    Evan Longoria was moved from his usual No. 3 spot in the batting order up to second.
  8. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays


    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of their most productive hitters up.

    In this space we are going to review some of the things they did wrong which led directly to them losing the game to Toronto 3-2....

    Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.
  9. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes are clear.

    And if they end up falling short, Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays will be glaringly among those wasted chances....

    Associated Press
  10. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    You wonder if the scouting reports and/or workload are catching up to rookie RHP Jake Faria. The bottom line wasn't bad again, three runs in 51/3 innings, but he's having to work harder to get there.

    Moving Brad Miller to the leadoff spot may actually be a good idea. He seems to be taking better swings, with another hit on Wednesday, and his ability to draw walks could be a bonus....

  11. Rays journal: Chris Archer eager for eventful final stretch

    The Heater

    TORONTO — RHP Chris Archer takes the mound today for the Rays as they head into the final 40 games of the season with little margin for error as they battle for an American League playoff spot.

    And he couldn't be more eager for the opportunity to lead the staff down the stretch pitching in big games as they go.

    "I want it," Archer said Wednesday. "I haven't had too many opportunities, a handful maybe, but I want it. I love pitching in situations when games matter. And we have a few guys like so it's going to be really fun down the stretch." ...

    PLUNKED AND PEEVED: The Jays’ Josh Donaldson gets hit by a Jake Faria pitch in the third inning, showing displeasure with a long stare on his way to first base.
  12. Rays at Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m. Thursday

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    4:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84)

    JAYS: RH Chris Rowley (1-0, 1.69)

    On Archer: Worked just 51/3 vs. Indians Saturday, shortest start since May 15, though throwing 111 pitches. Faces Jays for 23rd time, having gone 6-4, 3.13 overall; 3-2, 2.98 in Toronto. ...

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Chris Rowley works during first inning baseball action against the Pittsburgh Pirates, in Toronto on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) FNG502
  13. For starters: Rays at Jays, with a different look to lineup


    UPDATE, 6:40: Former Rays reliever LHP J.P. Howell was DFA'd today by the Blue Jays; he had a 7.36 ERA in 16 games.

    UPDATE, 6:15: Even with some success last night, Cash followed through on some discussed lineup changes, dropping struggling Corey Dickerson from the top to 7th and replacing him with Brad Miller, who hasn't hit much but has been walking a lot.

    "Maybe just a change of scenery for both the guys that got flip-flopped will so some good,'' Cash said.

    Also of note, Cash gave days off to RF Steven Souza Jr. and C Wilson Ramos, who has homered the last two nights. Also, Cash is playing Robertson for a third straight night with Hechavarria out of the lineup for the second time in three days.

    Cash said Miller may not stay at the top beyond tonight, but Dickerson will stay in the 6-7 slots for while.

    Here is the Rays lineup:
    Miller 2b
    Duda dh
    Longoria 3b
    Morrison 1b
    Robertson ss
    Dickerson lf
    Bourjos cf
    Smith rf
    Sucre c
    Faria p

    And here is the Jays lineup:
    Bautista rf
    Donaldson 3b
    Smoak 1b
    Morales dh
    Pearce lf
    Pillar cf
    Goins ss
    Barney 2b
    Lopez c
    Stroman p...

    Daniel Robertson is expected to make a third straight start tonight, likely at shortstop.
  14. Rays morning after: The real reasons behind Tuesday's win over Blue Jays


    Scoring six runs was the big news for the offensively challenged Rays in Tuesday's victory over the Blue Jays.

    But it was the old reliable reasons - pitching and defense - that allowed them to win the game.

    Having been limited to 12 runs total in their previous 10 games, the Rays felt pretty good about taking a 6-1 lead in the fifth.

    RELATED: Rays snap out of offensive slump with win over Blue Jays...

    Corey Dickerson (10) celebrates Tuesday's victory with Steven Souza Jr. (20) and Peter Bourjos (18).
  15. Rays journal: Blake Snell pitches well enough to earn first win of season

    The Heater

    TORONTO — LHP Blake Snell is making the most of his second chance at a second chance.

    Snell delivered a second straight strong outing after his demotion to Triple A last week was aborted with RHP Alex Cobb going on the DL. For working six mostly solid innings against the Blue Jays, he earned his first win of the season.

    "Looking at all of his starts this year, you can probably make the argument that that might have been his best one," manager Kevin Cash said....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) FNG503