Rays-Blue Jays Preview
The Tampa Bay Rays showed no signs of slowing down in their first game after the All-Star break, relying on a power surge as they picked right up where they left off.
After tying a season high with four home runs, they'll seek their 16th win in 18 games when they face the host Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Four Rays homered in an 8-5 victory Friday, one of them being Wil Myers, who finished with three hits to make him 7 for his last 13.
''We were playing the best ball we had up to this point of the year leading up to the All-Star break,'' left-hander David Price said. "To have that four-day break, you don't want it to mess up the momentum that the team has and just the winning feeling we have in the clubhouse and in the dugout. That was a big win for us tonight. We hit on all cylinders.''
Tampa Bay's hitters took advantage of a Toronto team that has struggled to keep the ball in the park at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays (45-50) have given up 77 home runs at home, the highest total in baseball.
In contrast, the Rays (56-41) have been led by superb pitching during their hot streak, posting a 2.09 ERA in the past 17 games.
Jeremy Hellickson (8-3, 4.67 ERA) is one of the Tampa Bay pitchers that has been on a roll, going 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in his last five starts. The right-hander allowed 12 home runs in his first 11 starts but has given up three in his last eight.
"I don't think it's confidence in myself; it's confidence in throwing a fastball down and away 2-1," Hellickson told the Rays' official website. "Earlier in the year, I would have bounced a changeup. I just have a lot of confidence in my fastball right now."
The right-hander was unable to win a career-high fifth straight start in a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on July 10. He surrendered three runs and struck out eight in six innings.
Hellickson has a 2.25 ERA in three starts against Toronto this year, including a 4-1 win June 24 in which he allowed one hit in seven scoreless innings.
Mark Buehrle (5-6, 4.89), in contrast, is coming off his worst start of the season, allowing a season-high eight runs - three homers - in an 8-5 loss at Baltimore on July 12.
"What do you do? You've just got to get ready for the next start," Buehrle said.
The left-hander, who has a 6.44 ERA on the road, will try to rebound at home, where he is 4-1 with a 3.30 mark.
Tampa Bay's bullpen has posted a 0.81 ERA in the last seven games. Joel Peralta has pitched 5 1-3 straight scoreless innings in that stretch, allowing a hit and a walk, while Fernando Rodney has not allowed a run in 12 appearances and has converted 13 saves in a row.
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista is in a 4-for-37 (.108) slump but ended an eight-game home run drought Friday.