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MIN@TB: Hellickson fans eight over six solid frames

The All-Star break seemed to slow down the Rays' swarming offense -- for about five innings.

After David Price gave up three home runs in three innings to the Blue Jays on Friday, the Rays answered with four solo home runs of their own en route to a win, their 15th in 17 games.

Rays manager Joe Maddon will send Jeremy Hellickson to the mound Saturday in hopes of keeping the momentum going. After scuffling through the first two months of the season, Hellickson has wins in six of his last eight starts.

Hellickson feels commanding his primary pitch has been the key reason to his turnaround.

"I don't think it's confidence in myself, it's confidence in throwing a fastball down and away 2-1," Hellickson said. "Earlier in the year, I would have bounced a changeup. I just have a lot of confidence in my fastball right now."

Opposite Hellickson will be Toronto's Mark Buehrle, who is coming off his worst outing of the season. Buehrle gave up eight earned runs to the Orioles on July 12.

Buehrle, now in his 14th season, could not pick up a win against the Rays in any of his three attempts this season. Most recently, Buehrle and the Blue Jays lost to the Rays on June 25. Prior to that, Buehrle posted two no-decisions against the Rays in May.

Rays: Escobar could return to lineup
Shortstop Yunel Escobar participated in the Rays' optional workout Thursday before the team left for Toronto, but was left out of Friday's lineup while he continues to nurse a mild right hamstring strain.

Escobar left in the eighth inning of Tampa Bay's last game before the break on Sunday against Houston after beating out an infield single.

Maddon said Escobar could return Saturday as the designated hitter.

"He's available to play," Maddon said. "It's one of those things where we consider him so valuable we don't want to push him right now. Later in the season, September, different circumstances, probably would have played."

Escobar said Friday the hamstring is tight, but he does not feel a move to the disabled list is coming.

Escobar has started 89 games at shortstop with just four errors and is hitting .251.

Blue Jays: Lawrie still acclimating to new position
Toronto's Brett Lawrie returned from the disabled list with a left ankle sprain just before the break and manager John Gibbons said he would be patient with the third-year player when judging his results at the plate.

Gibbons may have to exercise more patience with Lawrie in the field as he continues to learn a new position at the Major League level.

Although Lawrie spent the first two years of his Minor League career at second base, his start at second Friday was just his third in the Majors. He made his fifth error of the season in the top of the second inning.

Before the injury, Lawrie started 37 games at third base, but after Jose Reyes returned from the DL, Maicer Izturis took over at third.

Lawrie, Iztruis, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark DeRosa and Munenori Kawasaki have all seen time at second base this season.

Worth noting
• Hellickson is 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA in nine career starts against the Blue Jays. He is 1-0 against Toronto this season with two no-decisions.

• Saturday's game is the second of 38 post-break road games for the Rays, who will play more second-half road games than any other Major League team. Comments