Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann ready to return for Rays

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The Rays lost starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann on the same day in early August and in the middle of their ongoing hunt for the American League East crown.  Today the East is all tied up, with the Yanks and Rays sharing a .616 winning percentage, and both Davis and Niemann are projected to return right on time.

Davis threw a simulated game this weekend, according to MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, and has been cleared to start Tuesday night’s game against the Angels.

Niemann also threw a simulated game over the weekend and is expected to return from the disabled list for Wednesday’s series finale.

Davis, 24, has turned in an impressive 2010 season despite constant pressure from ready-to-soar prospect Jeremy Hellickson and a rough June that saw him go 0-5 with a 6.00 ERA.  The right-handed Davis has not registered a loss since June 27 and carved up some pretty tough lineups in the month of July.  He should finish August strong and help carry the Rays through September.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.