Blue Jays visit Rays aiming for franchise-record win streak

Now this is what was expected of the Toronto Blue Jays back in Spring Training.

The Blue Jays have been on a tear with 11 straight wins and look to establish a franchise record for consecutive victories when they open a three-game series Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Toronto was predicted to turn the corner this season and didn't live up to those high expectations until the last two weeks. The club has made the AL East a bit interesting with the current winning streak and is tied with Tampa Bay at five games off the lead.

A three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles was the last order of business for the Jays, who used a 13-5 rout of the O's on Sunday to stay on track. Edwin Encarnacion was 3-for-5 with four RBI, two runs scored and his 21st home run, Jose Bautista drove in three runs and Colby Rasmus homered in the win.

The 13 runs were a season high for the Blue Jays and they last won 11 straight from June 2-13, 1987 and again from Aug. 27-Sept. 7, 1998. Toronto was 27-36 before the winning streak.

"We always figured it was just a matter of time before we started playing better and it lasted longer than we expected, but that's all behind us now," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.

Josh Johnson earned his first win as a Blue Jay in his eighth start of the season, allowing four runs on seven hits with five strikeouts over six-plus innings.

Toronto will also visit Boston on this road trip and has won five in a row away from home. The last time the Jays lost was June 10 at the Chicago White Sox.

Slated to make his fifth start of the season, Blue Jays right-hander Esmil Rogers gets the nod Monday. Rogers has won two straight trips to the hill and was last in action on Tuesday in an 8-3 triumph over Colorado. The Rockies reached Rogers for three runs -- two earned -- in 6 2/3 innings, but Toronto's offense was too much to send Rogers to the loss column.

Rogers, who is 3-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 27 games (4 starts), has faced the Rays three times in relief this season and is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in seven career relief stints against them.

Tampa Bay is back at the Trop for six games versus Toronto and Detroit, and went 3-4 on a road trip against the Red Sox and New York Yankees.

The Rays earned a split of four-game series at Yankee Stadium thanks to Sunday's 3-1 win behind starting pitcher Chris Archer. Archer tossed six innings of one-run ball, struck out four batters and allowed only one walk.

James Loney drove in two runs in the seventh inning to put the Rays ahead for good and Ben Zobrist got Tampa Bay on the board early with an RBI single in the first inning. Loney ended with three hits, as the Rays halted a two-game slide and had dropped eight of 11 contests. Adam Lind was 1-for-5 and has at least one hit in 17 of his last 20 games.

"We've done that several times this year, with what appeared to be a devastating loss we come back the next day and play well and you win in a very difficult venue," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "So I'm really proud of the way the guys handle these moments."

Jeremy Hellickson will open this series on the hill for the Rays and has won four of his last five decisions. Hellickson was hammered in a 10-1 loss to Kansas City on June 13, allowing eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings, but rebounded six days later in a win at Boston.

Hellickson limited the Red Sox to a pair of runs in six innings and pushed his record to 5-3 in 15 starts with a 5.50 earned run average. The right-hander has no record and a 3.46 ERA in two starts against Toronto this season and is 3-2 with a 3.04 ERA in eight career starts in this series.

Toronto has won four of seven meetings with Tampa Bay this season.