Rays try to keep the heat on in finale with Blue Jays

With a victory today over the Blue Jays, the Rays could begin their final series of the regular season on Monday tied for the American League Wild Card spot.

Tampa Bay will need some help for that to happen, but also needs to take care of its own business in the finale of this three-game series with Toronto.

Losses in four of five, including Friday's series opener, had dampened the Rays' playoff outlook, but the Red Sox have also continued their month-long slide and Tampa Bay's 6-2 win last night pulled it to within 1 1/2 games of Boston for the final playoff spot.

The Red Sox are set to play a doubleheader today with the Yankees, so a win by the Rays and a pair of losses by Boston would even the teams in the standings.

Tampa Bay broke out its power bats to win on Saturday, getting a tie-breaking solo homer from Ben Zobrist early in the game and a lead-padding three-run shot from Johnny Damon in the eighth inning en route to a 6-2 victory.

"It's outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon told his club's website. "If you would have told us at the beginning of Spring Training we'd be in this position right now, I think the whole organization would take it, the players would take it and the fan base would take it."

Starter Jeff Niemann lasted only one running, but Alexander Torres came out of the bullpen to throw five scoreless innings.

Jose Bautista hit his MLB-leading 43rd homer of the season for the Blue Jays, but ace Ricky Romero lost for just the second time in 12 starts after yielding six runs over 7 2/3 frames. Only one of those runs were earned as Toronto was denied a third straight win.

Looking to keep the pressure on Boston, Tampa Bay starts right-hander Wade Davis today and he has lost consecutive road starts to the Orioles and Yankees. He yielded five runs on eight hits and five walks over 4 2/3 frames on Tuesday in New York to drop a 5-0 decision.

Davis is 10-10 with a 4.55 earned run average on the year and is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in four games versus the Blue Jays in 2011. The 26-year-old suffered a loss when he last faced Toronto on Aug. 29, getting charged with six runs over 4 1/3 frames.

Left-hander Brett Cecil draws the nod for the Blue Jays off his shortest start since June 25, 2009.

Cecil lasted only three innings against the Angels on Tuesday, getting charged with four runs on six hits and two walks in a 10-6 defeat, his third in a row. The 25-year-old is 0-6 over his past nine outings since his last win on July 29.

"He started to elevate the ball and didn't have a finishing type of pitch," Jays manager John Farrell said of Cecil.

Cecil's current winless drought began with a no-decision against the Rays on Aug. 4 and is 4-2 with a 4.66 ERA lifetime against the club.

Tampa Bay is 11-6 against the Blue Jays this season, winning six of the past eight meetings.