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TB@TOR: Archer allows one run over seven innings

For the first time since June of last season, the Rays are in sole possession of first place in the American League East.

Now, the challenge becomes staying there. The Rays have lost only three games in July as they climbed out of last place, but they know how quickly they could fall back off the mountain top.

Tampa Bay is 6-1 on its current 10-game road trip, with every game coming against a division opponent. The Rays will face the Yankees twice more before returning to Boston on Monday to make up Thursday's postponed game.

"Those games, where those teams are at the top of the division, are really important for us to make some headway," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "Just an opportunity to gain a full game, no matter what. That's why we've got to certainly be ready to play those games."

Rookie Chris Archer will toe the rubber for the Rays, looking to collect his fourth straight win. Archer beat his teammates to New York, as he was originally scheduled to throw on Friday, but because of the postponement, he was moved back a day. Archer beat the Yankees in his first start at Yankee Stadium on June 23.

"It's just the stage you always dream to be on," Archer said. "Last time, I felt comfortable [pitching at Yankee Stadium], because I've seen myself there many times. ... The time of the year that it is right now, where every game is important, going out and battling the guys in the pinstripes is going to be a lot of fun."

But the Yankees' lineup Archer faced in June and the one he will see Saturday are slightly different, as New York traded for Alfonso Soriano on Friday. Derek Jeter, eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, will likely not return until Sunday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova will get the start for the Yankees, having won two of his three starts in July. He has started just one other game against Tampa Bay this season, the same June 23 game Archer won. Nova allowed three runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in the loss.

Rays: Lineup spells trouble for lefties
With the way New York's starting rotation turned for this series against Tampa Bay, CC Sabathia is the only left-handed starter the Rays will see.

That may not be a good thing for the Rays' red-hot bats. Their predominantly right-handed lineup naturally prefers left-handed pitching. The Rays have won 10 of their last 11 games against lefty starters.

Tampa Bay's batting average against left-handed pitching (.288 through Thursday) leads Major League Baseball.

But it doesn't end there. Even the Rays' left-handed hitters are finding success against left-handed arms. Prior to Friday's game, James Loney led all left-handed hitters in batting average against left-handed pitching at .355.

Loney, who registered an RBI single off Sabathia in the series opener, had a three-run home run off righty Adam Warren in the seventh inning of Friday's win.

Yankees: Soriano hitless in Yanks' return
Friday's game was not a home debut in the truest sense of the word for Soriano as he played in New York from 1999-2003 to begin his Major League career.

Nonetheless, Soriano had a chance to be the hometown hero in his first game back with the Yankees when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third with the bases loaded and his team trailing by five runs.

Soriano flew out to right field to end the inning, the second of three plate appearances in a debut that culminated in an 0-for-5, one-RBI performance.

Worth noting
• Archer will look to continue a stellar run for the Rays' top four starters. In the last 24 starts for Archer, David Price, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays are 23-1.

• With Friday's loss, the Yankees trail their season series against the Rays at 5-6.

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