Now that they hold sole possession of first place in the American League East for the first time this season, the Tampa Bay Rays will try to create some separation, as they challenge the New York Yankees in the second part of a three-game series in the Bronx.
The Rays caught fire early on in the series opener as Evan Longoria's two-run double highlighted a six-run second inning against CC Sabathia that helped them coast to a 10-6 victory that spoiled Alfonso Soriano's return to the club.
Tampa Bay has gone 20-3 since June 29 to claim the divisional lead.
"It's been outstanding to watch our guys perform," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We were playing such a great game, not just a good game tonight, and unfortunately we let them get back up a little bit, but nevertheless, held on."
Jeremy Hellickson was excellent on Friday on the way to his 10th win, allowing only four hits and one run over six innings. James Loney drove in three of his four RBI in the seventh inning with a three-run shot. Loney, Sean Rodriguez and Will Myers registered multi-hit games in the crucial victory.
Myers extended his own club record for a rookie with his seventh-straight game with multiple hits.
Maddon will hand the ball over to Chris Archer on Saturday. The 24-year old right-hander continued to impress on Sunday as he held Toronto to five hits and one run over seven innings of work en route to his third consecutive winning decision. Archer has given up only 15 hits in 28 innings this month with a 0.96 ERA over that span.
New York will counter with Ivan Nova, who took a loss on Monday after holding Texas to three runs over seven innings. His streak of two-straight starts with a win ended and he wasn't satisfied with what appeared to be a decent effort.
"I don't really like it. Even though (it was) only three runs, I didn't throw enough strikes," said Nova, who threw 62 of 112 pitches for strikes. "I couldn't command my curveball really good today. My fastball was off. I don't have a feeling for my changeup. I don't really like it."
The setback stopped a two-game winning streak for the 26-year old righty, who has also been a batter's nightmare in July with a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings of work.
Soriano went 0-for-5 with an RBI and run scored in his first game back in a New York uniform.
"It's a little different because the old one I used to play second base and the new one I play left field now," Soriano said. "It's hard to get used to, but I'll be ready to play every day hard. Hopefully I'll have a better game than this time."
Brett Gardner, Melky Mesa, David Adams and Brent Lillibridge provided two hits apiece for the Yankees in Friday's loss. Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-3 and is now only 6-for-33 since the All Star break. Robinson Cano also failed to register a hit for the third time in the past five games.
Although Alex Rodriguez said in a statement on Thursday that he was ready to return and wanted to be in the lineup on Friday, the club has said it does not expect him to be back in the big leagues before Aug. 1.
However, there is a chance that shortstop Derek Jeter could return on Sunday.
The Rays are 6-5 versus the Yankees this season. New York owns a 28-24 record at home coming into Saturday.