The Blue Jays and Rays begin a three-game series on Tuesday at Tropicana Field with each team trying to turn in a strong final month of the season to finish above .500.
Toronto has to be glad the calendar finally turned to September. The Blue Jays finished August with a 9-17 record and scored three runs or fewer in 15 of those games. Before winning their last two games against the Yankees, the Blue Jays had lost 11 of their previous 15.
Tampa Bay is trying to finish with a winning record for the seventh consecutive season, and this season would be one of its more improbable runs, despite likely falling short of the postseason. The Rays are aiming to become the first team in Major League history to finish above .500 after being at least 18 games under earlier in the year. They were 24-42 through June 10.
The Blue Jays will send right-hander R.A. Dickey to the mound on Tuesday. He allowed three runs in the first inning of his last start against the Red Sox before settling down. Dickey did not allow another run over six innings, but he did not factor into the decision.
Jeremy Hellickson will get the ball for Tampa Bay, making his ninth start of the season. He's posted a 2.98 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 3.18 K/BB ratio since returning at the beginning of July from elbow surgery performed in February.
"I'm still not as strong as I need to be. I'm still working my way back, but my elbow feels fine," Hellickson said. "Throughout the game, I feel like I should be getting stronger. That just comes with more starts."
Blue Jays: Bautista homers in fifth straight
Jose Bautista has moved within one of the Blue Jays' franchise record for most consecutive games with a home run.
Bautista homered during the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Yankees. It marked the fifth straight game in which Bautista homered, and history is now within his sights.
Jose Cruz Jr. holds the all-time Toronto record with home runs in six consecutive games from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2001. Bautista will have a chance to tie that in the opener with the Rays.
Last week, Bautista became the third player in franchise history to hit 25 homers in five consecutive seasons, joining Carlos Delgado (nine) and Joe Carter (six). The 33-year-old Bautista has 29 home runs and 83 RBIs in 2014.
Rays: Jennings sits Monday, but could return for start of series
The Rays held Desmond Jennings out of the lineup with left knee soreness for a fourth straight game Monday, but manager Joe Maddon said the outfielder could be ready Tuesday. Jennings was available to pinch-hit Monday, but he didn't play in Tampa Bay's 4-3 walk-off win vs. Boston.
Jennings played Thursday against the Orioles and was scratched from Tampa Bay's lineup prior to Friday's game against Boston.
The return of Jennings gives the Rays an abundance of outfielders, though. For the first time this season, the Rays will have Jennings, David DeJesus, Kevin Kiermaier, Matt Joyce, Brandon Guyer and Wil Myers all at the same time because of injuries and since rosters expanded Monday.
"As Desmond gets well, that's what presents the issue regarding balancing the whole thing out," Maddon said. "Once Desmond gets well, I'm going to have to start to figure out how to get everybody involved."
• Brandon Morrow threw a scoreless eighth inning for Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday, hitting 97 mph several times. It's still unclear whether he'll join the Blue Jays as a reliever this week or if he still needs more time. The righty has been on the disabled list since May 4 with a torn tendon in his right index finger.
• The Rays announced Sunday that they've reached a four-year extension with the Durham Bulls, extending their partnership with the Triple-A club through 2018. The two organizations have been affiliated since 1998 when the Rays first began Major League play.
• The Rays have thrown a club record 18 shutouts this season.
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.