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AP - Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays' rotation is the primary reason they've surged to the top of the AL East.

The New York Yankees are hoping Alfonso Soriano can provide a spark with Derek Jeter sidelined at least one more game.

Rookie Chris Archer will try to keep the Rays rolling by winning a fifth straight decision against the foundering Yankees on Saturday.

Tampa Bay (61-42) has gotten a 2.13 ERA from the rotation, which has held opponents to .208 at the plate during a staggering 20-3 stretch that has vaulted the team atop the division.

The Rays are one-half game ahead of Boston after trailing by as many as seven on June 28.

Jeremy Hellickson turned in the latest strong performance Friday, yielding one run and four hits in six innings of a 10-6 win over the Yankees (54-49).

Archer (5-3, 2.76 ERA) has been a vital contributor to Tampa Bay's surge, going 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA over his last six starts and winning the last three behind a 0.41 ERA. The rookie right-hander began his four-game winning streak with a 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium on June 23, yielding one run in six innings in his only career meeting with New York.

He was impressive Sunday, allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-3 win at Toronto.

"I've realized where my potential is and I'm striving for that every time out," Archer said.

While the Rays are the hottest team in baseball, the Yankees are scuffling through a 3-7 stretch.

New York is hitting .226 with no homers and 14 runs while dropping three of five. The team showed some signs of breaking out Friday with 11 hits but was unable to overcome a 10-1 deficit the final two innings.

The Yankees are hoping Soriano can begin making a difference. They acquired him from the Chicago Cubs on Friday, and he went 0 for 5 with one run and one RBI while batting cleanup.

"He's not the same player he used to be," general manager Brian Cashman said, "but he certainly provides some thunder from the right side that we've been lacking."

Pressure seems to be building on Cashman to find personnel to help the Yankees cut into their seven-game deficit to the Rays.

"We've obviously been trying to improve our offense, to no avail, throughout this season," Cashman said. "By far, (Soriano) is the best available bat to date."

New York could get a significant lift when Derek Jeter (right quadriceps) comes off the disabled list. He is eligible to be activated Saturday, but a decision won't be made until after he plays a simulated game that day.

The Yankees send Ivan Nova (4-3, 3.66) to the mound, and he's compiled a 2.55 ERA in seven games - four starts - since sitting out nearly a month with right triceps inflammation. Despite pitching better, he has just a 3-2 record to show for it since he's been backed by one total run in those defeats.

Nova didn't get any help Monday, when he allowed three runs in seven innings of a 3-0 loss at Texas.

His previous loss came to Archer, yielding three runs in 6 2-3 innings as his four-game home winning streak against the Rays ended.

Nova is 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA over his last eight overall games versus Tampa Bay.

Rays rookie Wil Myers has seven straight multihit games, going 15 for 30 with seven RBIs and six runs. The right fielder is 8 for 23 (.348) with five RBIs in five meetings with New York.

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