Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays game preview

The Toronto Blue Jays’ once-potent lineup had been failing to compensate for a struggling rotation for much of August until the finale of their recent trip.

The fading Blue Jays will try to win back-to-back contests for only the second time this month Friday night when they open a nine-game homestand with the first of three against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Toronto (65-62) led the majors with 134 homers, ranked third with a .264 average and fifth at 4.65 runs per game when it stood 1 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Baltimore on July 31.

The Blue Jays, however, slumped with a .239 average, seven homers and 2.9 runs per game while dropping 12 of their first 16 games in August to fall nine back of the Orioles heading into Wednesday’s outburst.

Jose Reyes finished with three hits and Jose Bautista added a three-run home run as part of a 15-hit barrage in a 9-5 win at Milwaukee that capped a 2-6 road swing.

"This has not been a good road trip for us, anybody will tell you that," said starter R.A. Dickey, who needed the support by allowing five runs over 5 2-3 innings. "The home run by Jose was the difference and you could kind of hear a collective sigh on the bench."

The Blue Jays haven’t won two in a row since taking their previous two home games Aug. 9-10. They rank near the bottom of the AL with a .246 average versus left-handers as they take on Tampa Bay’s Drew Smyly.

Smyly (7-10, 3.66 ERA) was impressive in a second straight outing Saturday, allowing two runs over seven innings, but did not get a decision in a 3-2 home loss to the New York Yankees.

Tampa Bay Rays on FOX Sports Sun

"Smyly was really, really good again," manager Joe Maddon said of the lefty, who was acquired from Detroit in the David Price trade July 31.

In his previous start, Smyly gave up three hits with nine strikeouts over 7 2-3 innings in a 7-0 victory at Texas. He’s gone 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts since joining the Rays (62-65).

Smyly makes his first start against the Blue Jays, though he limited them to two hits over 2 2-3 scoreless innings over three relief appearances for the Tigers last season.

Tampa Bay is three games behind second-place Toronto and New York after snapping a four-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over Detroit on Thursday. Brandon Guyer’s first-inning RBI triple was the only hit off Price, who went the distance in his first start back at Tropicana Field.

"It’s weird," Guyer said. "I’ve never seen a win like that."

Toronto’s Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.83) will pitch on two extra days of rest after surrendering five runs and five hits in just two-thirds of an inning in last Friday’s 11-5 road loss to the Chicago White Sox.

"There’s a lot of emotion that goes into this game, you want to do everything in your power to put your team in a position to win, and I did everything but that," Stroman told MLB’s official website.

The right-hander should have a good chance to rebound at home, where he’s 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA in eight starts. He’ll try to pick up a Toronto rotation that posted an 8.17 ERA during the disappointing trip.

The Jays have won six of 10 versus the Rays, including a three-game home sweep in May.