Hot Blue Jays head to Florida to face hotter Rays

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The Tampa Bay Rays have finally returned home after a 10-game road swing, and they made plenty of memories along the way.

The American League East club will open a week-long homestand Friday night (6:40 ET) with a four-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays then close it with three against the Baltimore Orioles.

The road was extremely good to the Rays — nearly a complete reversal of their first five games away from Tropicana Field.

The club lost five straight in Atlanta and Baltimore from July 29-Aug. 3. The AL East contenders averaged just 2.6 runs per game, hit .185 and stroked just three home runs.

However, that all changed with the lengthy road trip to face the Boston Red Sox, Blue Jays in Buffalo and New York Yankees.

Tampa Bay left the Northeast with a 9-1 trip — its first like that in 10 years — and a half-game AL East lead over the Yankees after Thursday’s 10-5 victory, and manager Kevin Cash watched his team’s bats wake up in a big way against the three division rivals.

The Rays averaged 7.6 runs per game, blasted 20 homers and batted .301. They also improved to 6-1 against the Yankees this season.

“I don’t know if I have the best explanation (for the success against the Yankees),” said Cash, whose team was 13-35 in Yankee Stadium from 2015-2019. “We did a good job of limiting the big inning against us.”

The sweep in Yankee Stadium was Tampa Bay’s first since July 2, 2014 — a span of 2,239 days. They also became the first club since the Oakland Athletics in September of 1990 to take every game from the Red Sox and Yankees on the same road trip.

Ace Charlie Morton (right shoulder inflammation) fired a strong bullpen session at the team’s training facility and could be activated this weekend. However, hard-throwing lefty reliever Jose Alvarado (left shoulder inflammation) will miss two weeks.

On Friday, Ryan Yarbrough (0-2, 4.13 ERA) will make his second straight start against the Blue Jays. The southpaw tossed three scoreless frames in Buffalo before rain suspended the contest. Of Yarbrough’s 27 career victories, six are against Toronto – he has a 6-1 mark with a 2.00 ERA in 11 appearances (four starts).

The Blue Jays won a wild doubleheader Thursday from the Philadelphia Phillies in Buffalo.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. chopped a walk-off single over the Phillies’ drawn-in infield in a 3-2 win in Game 1. In a crazy Game 2, Philadelphia put up a seven-spot in the first, but the Blue Jays erupted for seven in the sixth in a 9-8 win — their fifth straight. Rowdy Tellez belted a solo homer and a go-ahead two-run single and Gurriel popped a three-run shot in the seven-run frame.

The victory pushed Toronto to one game over .500 and left them 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays.

Slugging shortstop Bo Bichette, a Tampa area product who went to high school in St. Petersburg, has a knee injury, but the swelling has gone down. Bichette, 22, was hitting .361 with five homers and 13 RBIs for the Blue Jays through 14 games before being hurt.

“I’m extremely optimistic he’s going to be helping this team again in 2020,” said Toronto GM Ross Atkins, adding that he will be reevaluated this weekend.

Top prospect Nate Pearson, a right-handed starting pitcher, was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday with right elbow tightness, and the club recalled and activated righty hurler Jacob Waguespack.

Toronto is expected to send right-hander Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 5.23) out for the series-opening contest. For his career, Shoemaker is 4-0 with a 2.41 ERA in six career starts against the Rays.

–Field Level Media

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