Rays send Hellickson to hill vs. Blue Jays

Jeremy Hellickson grabbed his first victory in four starts last time out. It has been nearly nine months since he last tasted defeat.

The Rays starter tries to extend his career-high winning streak this evening as Tampa Bay plays host to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of three straight meetings.

Hellickson hadn't factored into the decision of his previous three outings before beating the Red Sox on Wednesday. It improved his season record to 4-0 with a 2.77 earned run average in eight starts and stretched his overall winning streak to six in a row dating back to last season. Hellickson hasn't lost since Aug. 30 and is the first Rookie of the Year winner to go 4-0 as a starter the year after winning the award.

The 25-year-old righty gave up one run on five hits and two walks over six innings, striking out six while retiring seven of his last eight batters faced. He is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in five starts at home this season.

Hellickson did win at Toronto on April 19, yielding two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings to improve to 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA in three career games versus the Blue Jays.

Toronto counters with its own young hurler in 24-year-old Kyle Drabek, who snapped a string of four straight losing starts with a win over the Yankees on Wednesday. Drabek allowed a run on three hits over seven innings, though he did walk four to give him 13 over his past three outings.

The right-hander moved to 3-4 with a 3.30 ERA in eight starts this year and will face the Rays for the second time in his career. In a road start against them last May 5, he suffered a 3-1 loss by allowing all three runs on six hits and four walks over 5 2/3 frames.

Toronto will look to rebound tonight behind Drabek after having a four-game winning streak halted with Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Mets. Jose Bautista homered, singled twice and drove in two runs, while starter Henderson Alvarez yielded all six runs over five innings.

The Blue Jays pulled to within a run by scoring twice in the eighth and then put two runners on in the ninth against former teammate Francisco Rodriguez, but the next three batters went down on strikes against the closer.

"Those guys at the back end of their bullpen make their money for a reason," said Toronto's J.P. Arencibia. "[Francisco] at the end of the game punched out the side after the first two batters getting on. He's got good stuff."

The Blue Jays are eligible to have third baseman Brett Lawrie back in the lineup tonight after he served the final contest of his four-game suspension for his actions towards a home-plate umpire last week. He is hitting .281 with three homers and 17 RBI in 38 games.

Toronto is four games back of Baltimore for first place in the American League East, while Tampa Bay sits two games behind the top spot after losing Sunday's finale with Atlanta 2-0.

David Price struck out seven and was charged with two runs -- one earned -- on six hits and three walks in seven frames for the Rays, who have dropped three of four on the heels of a four-game winning streak.

"I thought David obviously did a good job of keeping this 2-0, they just happened to get us today," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The Rays have won their last four encounters against the Blue Jays by a 32-10 score -- all in Toronto -- and have taken 11 of the past 14 meetings overall.