Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays series primer

BY foxsports • June 22, 2015

They've raced in front, but there's little room for error.

They've sustained their success, but other division rivals have awakened.

With a 40-31 record, the Tampa Bay Rays enjoy their first-place perch in the American League East. Still, the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are close behind. The Rays hold a one-game lead over the Yankees, and their lead stands at three games over the Orioles and Blue Jays.

Tampa Bay can create more space between it and Toronto this week. The Blue Jays arrive at Tropicana Field for a three-game series from Monday to Wednesday. The set begins a 10-game homestand, and the Rays should hold plenty of momentum when they become re-acquainted with Tropicana Field. They're 8-2 since June 12, and before a 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, they had won four consecutive games.

But most of the AL East has enjoyed recent hot streaks as well. Entering play Monday, the division stands as the lone one in the majors that boasts four teams with winning marks. The Rays' lead is the smallest of any squad that paces a division. No other division can claim three teams within three games of first place.

Here's a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Blue Jays series ...

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

WHO'S HOT

Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays): He hit .440 (11 for 25) with two home runs and five RBI in seven games from June 15-21. He had four multi-hit contests in the span, including a day when he went 3 for 4 in a victory over the New York Mets on June 17. He has hit .269 with six home runs and 34 RBI this season.

Logan Forsythe (Rays): He hit .481 (13 for 27) with three RBI in seven games from June 15-21. He had five multi-hit contests in the span, including three with three hits each. He has hit .288 with seven home runs and 31 RBI this season.

WHO'S NOT

Justin Smoak (Blue Jays): He hit .071 (1 for 14) with six strikeouts in six games from June 15-21. His lone hit in the span came on an RBI double in a victory over the Orioles on June 19. He has hit .248 with five home runs and 21 RBI this season.

Nick Franklin (Rays): He hit .182 (2 for 11) with five strikeouts in six games from June 15-21. He was held without a hit in four contests in the span. He has hit .143 with one home run and three RBI this season.

STORYLINES

14-6: Rays' record in June. They won eight of 10 games from June 12-21.

2: Amount of four-game winning streaks for the Rays since June 12. The first went from June 12-15 and the second from June 17-20.

10: Games at home for the Rays from June 22-July 2. In addition to the series against the Blue Jays, the Boston Red Sox (three games) and Indians (four) also will visit.

QUOTE BOARD

"It was special. Earlier in the first inning I was a little nervous, but after I hit the homer I felt better." -- Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to reporters, after he hit a solo home run as part of a 2-for-4 day with one RBI in the Rays' 4-1 victory over the Indians on Friday at Progressive Field. He played for Cleveland from 2007 to 2014.

"I always say we all feel this stuff. It's taken me out of my routine a little bit, but once I get into the game, I feel OK. I felt good tonight." -- Third baseman Evan Longoria to reporters, after he hit a three-run home run to left field in the top of the first inning in the Rays' 4-1 victory over the Indians on Saturday at Progressive Field. Recently, he has been dealing with a sore left wrist.

"Sometimes you don't even know if you have the ball or not. At that particular moment I thought I could have had it and tried to just make a good baseball play. Unfortunately I didn't get it today." -- Catcher Curt Casali to reporters, after he was unable to hold onto the ball following a throw from center fielder Kevin Kiermaier in the bottom of the ninth of the Rays' 1-0 loss to the Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field. Roberto Perez scored the winning run.

PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS

June 24 -- Rays Cheer Sticks

LOOKING AHEAD

June 26-28 -- Red Sox at Rays

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


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