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Rays lineup heating up

TORONTO -- They might not have as many wins to show for it as they'd like, but the Rays offense appears to have turned a corner in the last week.

Riding a four-game win streak into Toronto, Tampa Bay dropped two in a row despite the fact its bats have shown signs of life.

Over the past six games, the team is averaging more than 10 hits and five runs, getting contributions throughout the lineup.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said after rejiggering the batting order, the team seems to be taking a more aggressive approach at the plate.

"A little more aggressive, a little more, 'Let it roll,'" Maddon said. "Don't be so careful up there. We've been hitting the ball harder. We've got [Evan] Longoria in the No. 2, [Desmond] Jennings in the No. 4. Sometimes when you step outside your normal sphere, you think a little different, and maybe that peps you up a bit."

Longoria has been hitting .333 (11-for-33) since moving to the No. 2 spot in the order six games ago, while Jennings has fared well in a cleanup role the past two games.

The team has also seen some timely hitting from Sean Rodriguez, who came off the bench to hit two key pinch-hit home runs in the past week, including a three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning against the A's on Thursday.

He was 2-for-3 with three RBIs against the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

"Sean Rod' is growing up as a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "He's hitting the ball hard, you can put him on defense anywhere. He's involved, engaged, and I'm really happy for him."

And with Ben Zobrist due back on Friday, Maddon is confident his team's bats will only continue to improve as the year goes on.

"There have been a couple of games we've scored runs ... but we didn't take advantage of it," he said. "But if it continues to go this way, we will start picking up some of those games. So many guys here are not yet to the top of their games, but they're gonna be. I'm really excited about it."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for
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