The AL wild card-leading Tampa Bay Rays continue to inch closer to locking up a playoff spot.
The Toronto Blue Jays' R.A. Dickey, meanwhile, is set to conclude what's been a disappointing year.
Seeking a season high-tying eighth consecutive win, the visiting Rays have a chance to clinch Friday night in the first of three against the Blue Jays.
Evan Longoria stayed hot with two hits and three RBIs and Delmon Young hit a home run as Tampa Bay (90-69) swept the New York Yankees with Thursday's 4-0 road win. The Rays, who have outscored opponents 37-13 during their winning streak, lowered their magic number for securing a wild-card berth to two. They can clinch with a win and a Texas loss to the Los Angeles Angels .
Tampa Bay has now posted four consecutive 90-win seasons for the first time in franchise history.
"That's outstanding, a great tribute to the organization from top to bottom," said manager Joe Maddon, whose team won eight straight July 4-11. "There's a really nice quiet confidence among them. ... They're really sniffing it, and that matters. And so you're seeing a higher level of mental play."
The Rays now turn their attention to Dickey (13-13, 4.27 ERA), who hasn't lived up to expectations in his first season with the Blue Jays.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who had gone 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in his previous five outings, struck out a season-high 11 and went the distance in Sunday's 5-2 loss at Boston.
Dickey surrendered his 32nd and 33rd homers, the second-most in the majors.
"He gives up fly balls, that's part of being a knuckleballer, but he threw a tremendous game if you take away the two home runs," manager John Gibbons told MLB's official website. "The problem is you can't take away the two home runs."
Dickey's complete game was his third of the year.
"I had a good knuckleball, I've had a good knuckleball for quite some time and I expected better from what I felt and what I saw the ball doing."
Dickey is 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA in six matchups against the Rays since last year. He has baffled several of their hitters, including Ben Zobrist (2 for 19), Desmond Jennings (1 for 16), Luke Scott (1 for 13), Jose Molina (0 for 10) and rookie Wil Myers (0 for 6).
Tampa Bay counters with Jeremy Hellickson (12-9, 5.16), who threw 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief and earned the win last Friday in a 5-4, 18-inning victory over Baltimore.
The right-hander, though, was hit hard in his last start, surrendering five runs before exiting with two outs in the third inning of a 7-1 loss to Texas on Sept. 17. His ERA ranks third-highest in all of baseball among qualified pitchers.
"It's been a back-and-forth battle with him," Maddon said. "Even in games he's won, there have been a lot of runs scored. It's just been awkward with him. He just hasn't been as steady as he's been in the past. Why? I don't really know. ... I don't have any solid answers."
Hellickson is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA during a six-start stretch versus Toronto. Brett Lawrie is 1 for 19 in their matchups.
Lawrie, 1 for his last 19, is hitting .185 in 13 games against the Rays this year.
Longoria is batting .374 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 29 games in the series since last season. He is 7 for 13 with two homers and eight RBIs in his last three games overall.
Tampa Bay has won 24 of 33 against Toronto.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|September 26, 2013||Jesse Crain||Day-to-Day||Shoulder|
|September 24, 2013||Jose Lobaton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right elbow|
|September 24, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Sore left ankle|
|September 23, 2013||Desmond Jennings||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|August 15, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Lower back spasms|
|August 15, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Lower back spasms|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 26, 2013||Mark Buehrle||Day-to-Day||Calf|
|September 21, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Bruised left eye|
|September 17, 2013||Edwin Encarnacion||Day-to-Day||Left wrist surgery - out for season|
|September 16, 2013||Edwin Encarnacion||15-Day DL||Left wrist surgery - out for season|
|September 13, 2013||Brett Cecil||60-Day DL||Left elbow discomfort|
|September 08, 2013||Moises Sierra||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
TORONTO (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Rays picked a bad time for their worst defensive performance of the season.
R.A. Dickey slowed Tampa Bay's stretch run, leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 6-3 victory Friday night that stopped the Rays' seven-game winning streak.
"One of those games," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been on a pretty good run. Go get a good night's sleep and come back tomorrow."
Tampa Bay dropped into a tie with Cleveland for the two AL wild cards, one game ahead of Texas. The Rays' magic number for clinching remained at two over Texas.
"We really still are in the driver's seat," Longoria said. "It's not like we're playing catchup at this point."
It was an ugly night for the Rays, who wasted a 2-0 lead and committed a season-high three errors, including a pair by two-time Gold Glove third baseman Evan Longoria .
"I had an uncharacteristically sloppy game," Longoria said. "Unfortunately, they came back to bite us today."
Dickey (14-13) allowed two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings, retiring 13 of 14 during one stretch. The 38-year-old knuckleballer, acquired from the New York Mets during the offseason after he won the NL Cy Young Award, struggled earlier this season but finished strongly, going 5-1 with a 3.17 ERA in his last seven starts.
"He had a good year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It was his 14th win, and for a team below .500, you'll take that."
Tampa Bay, which had won seven of its previous nine against Toronto, went ahead on home runs by Ben Zobrist in the first and Delmon Young in the second, his second in two games and the 100th of his career. Dickey allowed 35 homers, one behind the major league-high total of Oakland's A.J. Griffin (36).
Dickey recovered from the shaky opening and allowed just one hit after the third.
"He was able to kind of settle in and get into the rhythm of the game," Longoria said. "He just shut us down offensively after that."
Hellickson retired nine in a row before Jose Reyes singled to open the fourth. After a sacrifice, Brett Lawrie reached on Longoria's fielding error, and Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose followed with RBI singles.
Ryan Goins grounded a go-ahead single up the middle, and center fielder Sam Fuld overran the ball, which went all the way to the wall. Anthony Gose scored on the error for a 4-2 lead, and Goins was thrown out at the plate on Zobrist's relay from shortstop.
"I think I just took my eye off it just a second too early," Fuld said. "You can't really imagine a worse scenario as an outfielder."
Hellickson (12-10) allowed six runs - three earned - and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. He was disappointed he didn't overcome his teammates' defensive miscues.
"The guys have been picking me up all year, offensively and defensively," Hellickson said. "It would have been nice to pick them up for once."
Lawrie and Sierra chased Hellickson with run-scoring singles in the fifth.
Dickey left after two errors and a walk helped the Rays load the bases with one out in the eighth. Sergio Santos came on and got James Loney to ground into a double play on the first pitch.
"That was our opportunity right there," Maddon said.
Santos gave up Kelly Johnson 's RBI double in the ninth, then struck out pinch-hitter Luke Scott for his first save in three chances.
Lawrie's lip was cut in the seventh when a Roberto Hernandez pitch grazed his shoulder and bounced off his cheek. Bleeding from his mouth as he walked to first base, Lawrie was checked by a trainer but remained in the game. He was replaced by Mark DeRosa in the ninth.
"He was bleeding from his lip and from inside his mouth so we took him out for precautionary reasons," Gibbons said. "He's a tough dude."
NOTES: Tampa Bay's previous three-error game was Sept. 18, 2012 against Boston. ... Toronto's Adam Lind (back) missed his second straight game. ... Rays SS Yunel Escobar (left ankle) is expected to return to the starting lineup Saturday.