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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. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    And then the Rays went out and wasted repeated opportunities in wasting another day, losing 5-3 to the Blue Jays.

    The decisive runs came in the eighth, as Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer off reliever Tommy Hunter. But the story was just as much about how often the Rays came up short, leaving men on in each of the first eight innings, and 14 total....

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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....

    Rays rightfielder Mallex Smith leaps in vain as Steve Pearce’s solo home run clears the fence during the fourth inning.
  6. 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....

  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  10. 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).
  11. 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
  12. Rays snap out of offensive slump with win over Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The extended batting slump was so enveloping and, in the words of Evan Longoria, embarrassing over 10 games that one improved night isn't enough to convince anyone that the Rays are over it.

    But it sure is a better place to start.

    That's because Tuesday they scored six runs and rapped 13 hits — yes, all in the same game — temporarily halting their slide in beating the Blue Jays 6-4....

    TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 15:  Wilson Ramos #40 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on August 15, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) 700012040
  13. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    There were small signs things may be turning for the Rays. A ball hit by Adeiny Hechavarria dropped just inside the rightfield line for a double, a fly by Wilson Ramos was lost in the lights, a collision between 2B Daniel Robertson and RF Steven Souza Jr. didn't hurt.

    The Rays are hoping to get CF Kevin Kiermaier back this weekend, but they may want to start playing Peter Bourjos in the interim. That's because Mallex Smith has cooled considerably, hitting .138 in his past 10 games and with one extra-base hit in 20....

  14. Rays at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Wednesday, Toronto

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Blue Jays

    7:07, 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 Jake Faria (5-3, 3.19)

    Jays: RH Marcus Stroman (10-6, 3.00)

    On Faria: Retired first 12 Indians in last start then undone by a rough fifth, allowing career game-worst five runs. Beat Jays in second MLB start June 13, allowing one run....

  15. Evan Longoria on Rays' batting slump: 'It's kind of embarassing'


    The kind of slump the Rays have been in - scoring just 12 runs in their last 10 games - is hard to believe.

    It's also hard to explain, especially for their team leader, 3B Evan Longoria.

    "It's kind of embarrassing for lack of a better explanation,'' Longoria said this afternoon. "I wouldn't think it's for lack of effort and I dont think it's for lack of belief. I don't really have an explanation for it.''...

    "It's kind of embarrassing for lack of a better explanation,'' Evan Longoria said of the Rays' hitting woes.