David Price's outstanding work on the mound is one of the reasons the Rays are playing some of their best baseball, though it remains to be seen if the ace will still be with Tampa Bay two weeks from now.
The left-hander is set to make what could be one of his final starts with the visiting Rays when he tries to lead them to a fourth straight win Saturday night against the Minnesota Twins.
Although it had a losing record at the All-Star break for the first time since 2007, Tampa Bay (45-53) has shown signs of turning things around by going 14-5 since June 25.
The rotation has played a major role with a 3.23 ERA over that stretch, thanks in large part to Price (9-7, 3.23 ERA).
Since posting a 4.42 ERA over his first 11 outings, the All-Star has a 1.92 mark in his last nine. He's also won four consecutive outings behind a 1.13 ERA.
The trade rumors, however, have been intensifying with the July 31 non-waiver deadline fast approaching and Price set to hit free agency after the 2015 season. With the Rays still 8 1/2 games back in the AL East, recent reports have them discussing a deal with Seattle involving Price and Ben Zobrist.
"We've been playing much better baseball. It's not any of our decisions in here to decide what happens and speculate on what could happen," third baseman Evan Longoria told MLB's official website. "Whatever it is, we're going to have to move forward after the deadline."
In the meantime, Price will try to help the Rays continue their recent push following Friday's 6-2 victory at Target Field. He's 3-2 with a 2.76 ERA in seven career starts versus Minnesota after striking out 12 and going the distance in a 7-3 home win April 22.
Brian Dozier, who homered off Price in that contest, has gone 3 for 10 with two homers in their matchups. Dozier has a team-high 18 long balls and is 10 for 28 over his last six games.
Twins leadoff hitter Danny Santana went 1 for 5 Friday after missing 18 games with a bruised left knee. Trevor Plouffe hit his seventh home run for last-place Minnesota (44-51), which will try to regroup with its sixth win in eight games.
Since going 7-2 with a 2.27 ERA over an 11-start stretch, Phil Hughes (10-5, 3.92) has a 6.32 ERA over his last five.
The right-hander allowed five runs and 10 hits over five innings Sunday, but received plenty of run support to win his second straight start in a 13-5 victory at Colorado.
Hughes, who has gone 3-3 with a 5.37 ERA in nine home starts, is 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA in four starts since last beating the Rays in 2011 while with the New York Yankees.
James Loney (7 for 11) and Matt Joyce (7 for 15) have had the most success when facing Hughes, though Zobrist is hitless in 16 career at-bats.
Loney finished with three hits and Zobrist hit his seventh home run in the opener, while Longoria had two hits and three RBIs following an 11-game stretch in which he batted .189.
''We pretty much picked up where we did leave it off at the All-Star break,'' manager Joe Maddon said.