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07/29/10 10:41 AM ET

Series at the Trop holds implications for East

If a team is going to head into one of its biggest series of the year to date, it's not a bad idea to do it at home and in the middle of a long winning streak.

The Rays certainly do seem to have those ducks in a row as they prepare to play host to the first-place Yankees, beginning with Friday night's contest at Tropicana Field. The Rays welcome the one team in baseball with a better record with an active six-game winning streak and two games behind the Yankees in the American League East.

"I think it's a pretty important series," said Rays starter Wade Davis, who'll get the ball opposite Phil Hughes on Friday. "Every series is important, but this is a big series for us to go out and win some games against them to stay up there with them. If we can do that, then we'll be in a good situation."

Davis himself is enjoying a good run lately. The rookie right-hander will be making his 20th start of the season, and he has won his past three starts. In 21 1/3 innings pitched during that span, he has a 2.11 ERA. He heads into his final July start with a 3-0, 3.16 mark for the month, and the Rays have won all four of his outings. It's been quite a turnaround following his five-game losing streak in June.

"I think I was getting in my own way at that time," he said. "It wasn't really a problem physically or anything. I was just getting in my own way mentally. I got out of that, and now I'm good. It's been good the past month or so. I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing and go out and get the Yankees."

Davis has faced the Yankees three times in his brief career, winning once and losing twice, with a 4.86 ERA. He faced New York in St. Petersburg in his 2010 debut and took the loss, allowing four runs over seven innings in an eventual 10-0 whitewashing. The 24-year-old bounced back in New York in May, allowing two runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings for his first career win against the division rivals.

Hughes will try to get his own winning streak started after beating the Royals in his most recent start. Also 24, he hasn't been as effective overall lately, with a 5.79 ERA in four July starts. He's made seven appearances -- two starts -- against the Rays in his career, going 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA over 15 innings. The last time he started against Tampa Bay was in 2007.

Regardless of who's on the mound for the Yankees, Davis likes what he's seen from his teammates lately and thinks they're ready to hang with the Bombers.

"I think we match up pretty good with them," he said. "They have some pretty good hitters, and we have pretty good pitching. We're a pretty balanced team as far as speed and working the thing. I think we match up really good with them."

Yankees: A-Rod takes history chase to St. Petersburg
Alex Rodriguez tied Willie Mays for the longest homerless streak between homers 599 and 600 (21 at-bats) on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he surpassed it with five more ABs and he went 1-for-4 on Thursday. Over the course of the weekend series, he'll face Davis, no-no author Matt Garza and James Shields. He has one homer in three at-bats against Davis, one against Garza in 15 at-bats and has gone deep once in 15 plate appearances against Shields as well.

Rays: Let the good times roll
With a win on Friday, the Rays would tie their season-high win streak of seven games (April 12-19, their first seven road games of the season). They've won 19 of their 25 games since June 30 and are a season-best 25 games over .500. At the 100-game mark, they are eight games ahead of last season and three ahead of their 2008 pace.

"We're winning some games right now," Davis said. "That's good. We're fighting, scrapping, playing some defense and scoring some runs when we need them."

Worth noting
Friday night is Hispanic Heritage Night at the Trop. Los Lobos will perform postgame. On Saturday, it's African American Heritage Night, featuring an autograph session with former Negro League players Cliff Brown, Paul Casanova, Walter Gibbons, Leon Harris, Raydell Maddix, Enrique Maroto, Bob Mitchell and Willie Williams. And though it's not official, Sunday must be Tall Person Heritage Day. The first 10,000 kids 14 and under get a Jeff Niemann growth chart.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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