Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

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What's new: After massively underachieving for the first six weeks, the chic-pick Jays began to warm in mid May and are now sizzling, on Sunday winning their team record-tying 11th straight game and 15th of 18. The key has been the improved performance of their pitching staff, both starters and relievers, as they lead the majors in team ERA since June 13. Having Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of the lineup helps, and Adam Lind has stepped up as well. Plus, they should get SS Jose Reyes back from the DL soon. Still out are LHP J.A. Happ (who was hit in the head by a ball at the Trop on May 7), RHP Brandon Morrow and 3B Brett Lawrie.

Key stat: The Jays haven't won a series at the Trop since April 2007, and a season series since 2006.

Connections: Rays C Jose Molina, INFs Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson are former Jays, Bautista was briefly a Ray in 2004.

Series history: Jays lead 4-3 this season, Rays lead 139-125 overall, 79-52 at the Trop.

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

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