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TOR@CWS: Buehrle fans three in return to Chicago

Two American League East foes that have an eye on a Wild Card spot will continue their weekend series in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.

The Rays dealt the Blue Jays' playoff hopes a glancing blow in the series opener with an 8-0 win -- Tampa Bay's second straight shutout, following Thursday's 1-0 blanking of the Tigers. Friday's win also marked the Rays' AL-leading 17th shutout of the season.

Toronto has lost seven of nine and finds itself 4 1/2 games out of a postseason berth.

"They have been in a little bit of a rough spot," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, "but they are really good. They also are within striking distance of us right now."

If the Rays are to climb back into the Wild Card race, a series win or even a sweep of the Blue Jays would certainly come in handy. The first Wild Card spot is occupied by the A's, who are behind the Angels in the hotly contested AL West.

Friday night, Tampa Bay began a stretch of 26 consecutive games against its own division, which is the longest such streak in franchise history.

"We have to beat these teams to get back to where we want to be," Maddon said. "Under these set of circumstances, it's probably the best thing that could happen to us."

A familiar face will be staring the Rays down from the Rogers Centre pitching rubber Saturday night. Mark Buehrle, the 35-year-old southpaw, has made 20 starts against Tampa Bay in his career.

Buehrle is finding it difficult to work deeper into games of late. Only once in his last five starts has he lasted at least six innings. The results, as expected, aren't there either. Since June 1, Buehrle has just one win with a 4.79 ERA.

Emotions were running high his last time out in Chicago, where he spent a vast majority of his long, successful career.

"I had a little more nerves and a little more emotions going than I originally thought I was going to," Buehrle said. "Obviously, coming out of the dugout, running out, fans start chanting and going crazy, but I just tried to focus and realize what I had to do."

The Rays will rely on Jeremy Hellickson, who kept the Yankees hitless through 4 2/3 innings in his last start. He gave up three runs after the strong start and he was tagged with the loss.

"He didn't pitch badly at all," Maddon said. "He should have gone deeper into that game. … He was really good, and he has been really good."

Rays: Pair of position players nearing returns
The Rays could soon return a pair of players from the disabled list in time for the final stretch.

Catcher Ryan Hanigan (left oblique) began a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Charlotte on Friday, while outfielder David DeJesus (left hand) also suited up with the Stone Crabs for the second time in three days.

Hanigan, who has been out since July 8, suffered a setback when he initially began a rehab assignment in early August and had to be shut down. But with his oblique feeling better, he's set to work his way back from the injury that has cost him more than a month of action.

"He's getting really close," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "As long as there's no setback, three of four days maybe. We have to get him playing fully in a game situation before we can really make that decision. But if everything goes well, it shouldn't be that long."

Blue Jays: Prospect Norris a potential callup
Daniel Norris continued to rip through Triple-A competition on Thursday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, further making his case for a Major League promotion in the near future. He worked five innings for Buffalo and allowed one run on one hit with nine strikeouts, fueling speculation that a callup is imminent.

Amid conflicting reports that the young left-hander had moved to the Bisons' bullpen, Norris is still slated to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was mum on a potential callup for the 21-year-old Norris, who has experienced a meteoric rise through the club's Minor League ranks this season.

"You could see him. No guarantees, but you might," Gibbons said.

Worth noting
• Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie is making progress in Arizona as he works his way back from a left oblique strain, but there's still no timetable for his return.

• Rays catcher Jose Molina is expected to start Saturday after a night off Friday to nurse a sore left knee.

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