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TB@BAL: Hellickson fans five in five frames

The Blue Jays and the Rays are going in different directions.

For Tampa Bay, its four-game winning streak could not come at a more opportune time. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound for the Rays in Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays. He hasn't earned a win in more than a month as the Rays, who are looking to complete a sweep of Toronto on Sunday, have lost four of the last five games he's started.

But Hellickson understands that every game is especially important to the Rays, who trail the A's by 3 1/2 games in the AL Wild Card race with 10 regular-season contests remaining.

"I think that started a few games ago," Hellickson said. "We're winning, but no one else is losing, so the only thing we can really do is keep trying and go out there and take care of what we need to take care of."

Hellickson, who is winless in his last five starts despite posting a 3.46 ERA during that stretch, is 8-10 with a 3.31 ERA this season after winning 13 games and posting a 2.95 ERA in 2011, earning AL Rookie of the Year honors.

"I'd like to have a few more wins, but it's just how it goes sometimes," Hellickson said. "All I can control is to go out there and give us a chance to win. I've cut the walks down a little bit since last year, but at the same time, I'm not going as deep into games as I did last year."

Because Alex Cobb's next start was moved back to Tuesday so he could get some extra rest, Hellickson will be pitching on his normal four days' rest, but a day sooner than originally expected.

The Blue Jays have lost five straight games after an 11-5 loss to the Rays on Saturday night and are currently in last place in the AL East. They will send right-hander Chad Jenkins to the mound to make his first career Major League start in Sunday's series finale.

Selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft by the Blue Jays in 2009, Jenkins has posted a 4.91 ERA in 10 appearances out of the bullpen since being called up from Double-A New Hampshire on Aug. 5.

"I don't think he'll change his approach because he is in a starting role versus coming out of the bullpen," Blue Jays manager John Farrell. "He has done a very good job every time he has walked to the mound. He has been efficient, he has pitched to contact. This is a team, that if you throw strikes early in the count, they're going to be aggressive."

Jenkins threw about 60 pitches for the Blue Jays' instructional league team on Wednesday to get stretched out for his start on Sunday.

Blue Jays: Escobar hitless in first start since suspension
• Yunel Escobar returned to the Blue Jays' starting lineup for the first time since serving a three-game suspension for having a homophobic slur written in Spanish on his eye black during last Saturday's loss to the Red Sox. Escobar started at shortstop and batted fifth, going 0-for-4 and leaving six men on base in the Blue Jays' 11-5 loss to the Rays on Saturday night. Escobar hopes to put the incident behind him.

"I'm having a hard time dealing with the situation," Escobar said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I'm really sorry for what happened on the field... If I hurt somebody, from the bottom of my heart, I feel really sorry about it. I'm looking forward to meeting the people in Toronto and go from there."

• Right-hander Carlos Villanueva is experiencing more soreness than usual after his last outing in a 12-1 loss to the Rays on Friday. He gave up seven runs on eight hits over just 2 1/3 innings in that defeat, by far the shortest of his 15 starts this season.

"He feels a little bit more soreness from his previous starts, which is not to be totally unexpected at this time of the year," Farrell said. "If that soreness persists, we'll take every measure to identify if there's anything going on there physically."

Rays: Fuld confident he will return
• Outfielder Sam Fuld, who has missed the Rays' last five games with a strained right hamstring, believes he will play again before the end of the regular season. He took batting practice and ran 10 sprints of around 120 feet before Saturday's game against the Blue Jays. Fuld missed the first 96 games of this season while recovering from wrist surgery and is batting .273 with five RBIs and seven stolen bases in 39 games.

"I didn't want to push it too hard, but everything went smoothly," Fuld said. "I'd say I went about 55 to 60 percent."

Worth noting
• The Rays have a chance on Sunday to match their best single-season record ever against the Blue Jays, a 14-4 mark set in 2009.

• Fernando Rodney has converted 43 of 45 save opportunities this year and is two saves shy of tying the team record set by Rafael Soriano in 2010. Comments