As the Toronto Blue Jays continue to surge, the Tampa Bay Rays hope they’re not in the midst of another significant rough stretch.
The Blue Jays can extend their season-high winning streak to nine Wednesday night with a three-game home sweep of the Rays.
Mark Buehrle endured a subpar outing but became the majors’ first nine-game winner, and Edwin Encarnacion hit one of Toronto’s three home runs in Tuesday’s 9-6 victory.
Atop the AL East this late for the first time since July 6, 2000, the Blue Jays (31-22) have averaged 6.3 runs, hit 17 home runs and batted .321 during their longest winning streak since matching the club-record 11 last June. A winner in 13 of 15, Toronto has homered in 10 straight contests for the first time since a 12-game stretch Aug. 6-18, 2011.
”Everybody’s having fun,” Encarnacion said. ”You can see it on their faces. We’re playing great baseball.”
Encarnacion has homered in three straight games for the third time this season, and hit half of his 16 home runs while batting .361 (13 for 36) with 12 RBIs in his last nine contests. His 14 homers in May match Jose Bautista’s team record set in June 2012.
”Eddie’s on some kind of roll right now,” manager John Gibbons said.
However, Encarnacion is 1 for 9 with a homer against Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer (3-2, 4.11 ERA), who has not yielded a run over 11 2-3 innings while going 1-0 in two starts since he went 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in his previous four outings.
The right-hander gave up four hits and struck out 11 in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 1-0 victory over Boston on Friday.
Archer, 2-0 with a 2.01 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays, opened the season allowing two runs in six innings of a 7-2 win over them April 3.
Starters Erik Bedard and Alex Cobb gave up 14 of the 19 runs in this series allowed by the Rays (23-30), who hope to avoid losing three in a row after a season-high four-game winning streak. Also looking to avoid a season-high fifth straight road defeat, Tampa Bay has already suffered skids of at least three games on five occasions this season.
”Taking one out of three right now sounds very enticing,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Evan Longoria, however, is batting .367 in his last 29 games against the Blue Jays, and 1 for 2 with a homer versus Liam Hendriks (1-0, 1.59).
The Australian right-hander allowed a home run and two other hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-2 victory over Oakland in his season debut Friday. Hendriks was just happy to be back in the majors after going 2-13 with a 6.06 ERA in 30 games and 28 starts over the past three seasons with Minnesota.
”I’ve got a different mindset coming into the season, getting aggressive and getting after guys early and it’s paying dividends already," said Hendriks, who was 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA in seven starts at Triple-A Buffalo.
Hendricks’ only appearance against the Rays came in 2012 when he gave up four runs in 5 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 win.
Hitting cleanup against right-handers, teammate Adam Lind homered Tuesday and is batting .410 in his last 11 games. He’s 3 for 10 with a double versus Archer.