With outstanding pitching, defense and some timely hitting, the Tampa Bay Rays have continued their tear following the All-Star break.
The surging Rays, though, could be facing a tough test as they try for their 17th win in 19 games Sunday when they go for a series sweep against R.A. Dickey and the Toronto Blue Jays.Tampa Bay (57-41) is a major league-best 43-23 since May 8 after claiming its fourth straight win Saturday, 4-3 at Toronto. The Rays have been getting it done in all areas, committing only three errors during their 16-2 stretch while the pitching staff has a 2.09 ERA.They're also averaging 5.0 runs with 18 home runs and a .283 average with runners in scoring position despite going 1 for 8 in those situations Saturday.Luke Scott has played a large role, batting .386 with three homers and eight RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak. Rookie Wil Myers, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs Saturday, is 14 for 28 over his last seven games.The Rays, however, are facing a resurgent Dickey (8-10, 4.69 ERA), who has pitched well in three of his last four outings and also against them. The knuckleballer is 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA over that span and two-hit the Rays in a 3-0 win at Tampa Bay on June 26.Dickey, seeking his third win versus the Rays this season, is 3-0 with a pair of complete games and a 1.13 ERA in his last four starts against them.He's done a solid job holding down Scott (0 for 10), James Loney (3 for 16), Desmond Jennings (1 for 13) and Ben Zobrist (2 for 13)."The last four or five weeks I've really felt good," said Dickey after allowing two earned runs over six innings in a 4-2 loss at Cleveland on July 11. "I've had one rough start in there, but other than that I've really been good as far as the way I've felt. I anticipate a pretty strong (second) half."The right-hander will get the chance to back up his words and help the last-place Blue Jays (45-51) avoid their fourth straight loss and 16th in 23 games since an 11-game winning streak.Toronto, however, may find it tough to score runs against Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer (4-3, 2.96).Following a rough start, Archer has come on strong as of late -- going 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA over his last five outings. He struck out eight and walked none in his first career shutout, a five-hitter in beating Houston 5-0 last Sunday."The best game I've ever pitched in my life," said Archer, who hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 16 innings.He may have to deal with a hot Jose Bautista as he faces the Blue Jays for the first time. The slugger has homered in the first two games in this series, giving him four in his last three home games against the Rays.Teammate Jose Reyes is also seeing the ball well, going 9 for 24 (.375) in his last five games.