Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Rays series primer

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar hit .364 (8 for 22) with three home runs and six RBI in six games from Sept. 11-17.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

An uncommon struggle at Tropicana Field will end Sunday.

Starting Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays host the Chicago White Sox in their final series at home. The Rays enter with a 35-43 record at Tropicana Field, which seems strange given their success at the site in the past.

Right-handers Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer and Alex Colome are tentatively scheduled to take the mound for the Rays. Tampa Bay will avoid Chicago left-hander Chris Sale this series, which is a fortunate break for an offense that has underperformed all season.

Though elimination from the American League wild-card race seems likely this series, Tampa Bay aims to become the first team in major-league history to finish with a winning record after falling 18 games below .500 earlier in the season. Winning at least two games this series would place the Rays in position to do so with three-game series left on the road against the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.

Here’s a closer look at the upcoming Rays-White Sox series …

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

WHO’S HOT

Jose Abreu (White Sox): He hit .364 (8 for 22) with two home runs and four RBI in six games from Sept. 13-17. He had four games with two hits each in the span. He has hit .319 with 35 home runs and 103 RBI this season.

Yunel Escobar (Rays): He hit .364 (8 for 22) with three home runs and six RBI in six games from Sept. 11-17. He had two games with three hits each in the span, in a loss to the New York Yankees on Sept. 11 and a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 14. He has hit .254 with seven home runs and 39 RBI this season.

Rays Video

WHO’S NOT

Conor Gillaspie (White Sox): He hit .250 (5 for 20) with six RBI in six games from Sept. 13-17. He was held hitless in two games in the span. He has hit .290 with seven home runs and 57 RBI this season.

Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): He hit .056 (1 for 18) with three strikeouts in six games from Sept. 11-17. His lone hit in the span came in a loss to the Blue Jays on Sept. 13. He has hit .260 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI this season.

STORYLINES

1: "Tragic number" for the Rays in the AL wild-card race entering their series opener against the White Sox. Tampa Bay would miss the playoffs for just the third time since 2008.

3: Gifts given by the Rays to Yankees star Derek Jeter on Tuesday in his final series at Tropicana Field before retirement. He received a $16,000 check for his Turn 2 Foundation, a kayak and a framed Don Zimmer No. 66 jersey.

6: Games left for the Rays after closing their home schedule Sunday. They end the regular season with three-game series against the Red Sox and Indians next week.

QUOTE BOARD

"I was fortunate that I got that fastball over the middle of the plate and was able to get it out there." — Utility man Ben Zobrist, after he hit a game-ending single in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Rays’ 1-0 victory over the Yankees on Monday at Tropicana Field. He had gone without a hit in 11 previous at-bats this season with the bases loaded.

"I felt like that he of all people should know, those guys that have been around baseball forever, you should know that it’s not intentional. It’s an 0-2 count. I’m trying to get him out. I’m not trying to hit him. It’s Derek Jeter. I’m not trying to hit Jeter." — Reliever Steve Geltz, after he hit Jeter in the top of the eighth inning of the Rays’ 6-1 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Geltz’s pitch clipped Jeter’s left hand, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected after yelling at Geltz from outside New York’s dugout.

"I would never tell the Yankees how to train their pitchers." — Manager Joe Maddon, when responding Wednesday to Girardi’s frustration about Rays’ pitchers throwing inside. The conversation stemmed from Geltz hitting Jeter on Tuesday.

PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS

Sept. 19 — Tampa Bay Times Ticket Tandem — Oktoberfest Stein

Sept. 20 — Joe Maddon Mr. Potato Head #2

Sept. 21 — Raymond Train

LOOKING AHEAD

Sept. 23-25 — Rays at Red Sox

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.