The playoff-hopeful Tampa Bay Rays are playing their best baseball at the moment and will shoot for an eighth straight win Friday in the opener of a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
The Rays are closing in on a wild card spot and will need a win Friday coupled by a Texas Rangers loss to the LA Angels to punch their ticket.
Tampa Bay swept Baltimore in four games and completed a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees with Thursday's 4-0 win in the Bronx. Delmon Young homered, Evan Longoria drove in three runs and James Loney collected three hits at Yankee Stadium, where Rays starter Alex Cobb delivered seven shutout innings of three-hit ball for the win.
"There's no better time," Longoria said Tampa's hot play. "I didn't think today could go any better for us in terms of the outcome of the game."
The Rays reached the 90-win mark for the fourth consecutive season, the longest active streak in the majors.
Joel Peralta and Jake McGee each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.
Jeremy Hellickson hopes to pitch the Rays closer to a postseason spot Friday and has won two of his last three decisions. In a 5-4 win in 18 innings versus Baltimore last Friday, Hellickson pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief and gave up just a hit to improve to 12-9 in 31 games (30 starts) with a 5.16 earned run average.
Hellickson has made 11 career starts against the Jays, going 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA.
The Blue Jays went 2-5 on their recent road trip and are back home to close out the regular season versus the Rays.
Toronto lost two of three at Baltimore and dropped a 3-2 decision Thursday, when starting pitcher Mark Buehrle was reached for three runs and eight hits through 3 1/3 innings to absorb the loss. Buehrle left the game after taking a ball off his right calf in the fourth inning.
"I've got six months to recover, so it doesn't really matter," Buehrle told Toronto's website. "It got me in the calf, told them to at least let me finish off the inning but (manager John Gibbons) said there's no reason to. They got me out of there. I'm sure it will tighten up and feel a little sore."
Brett Lawrie drove in a run and Kevin Pillar ended 2-for-4 with a run scored for the Jays.
Hoping to delay Tampa's playoff hopes Friday will be Jays starter R.A. Dickey, who is 13-13 in 33 starts to go along with a 4.27 ERA. Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, had won four straight decisions until a 5-2 setback at Boston on Sunday, when he was touched for five runs in eight innings.
The right-handed knuckleballer has faced the Rays 12 times (8 starts) in his career and owns a 3-3 mark with a 4.12 ERA.
Toronto has lost 10 of 16 matchups with Tampa Bay this season and is only 1-5 in the previous six encounters between the AL East foes.