The Rays have been hot before. The dramatic finish in 2011, when they swiped the Wild Card from the Red Sox on the last day of season, was about as hot as they've ever been.
But even that doesn't come close to this. They've never been this hot. No team in the American League has been on a streak like this since the 2006 Twins, who went on a 21-2 run, propelling them to a postseason berth.
The Rays are 21-3 in their past 24 games. They've gone from last place in the AL East to first.
That run will get a new test Sunday at Yankee Stadium, with Derek Jeter coming off the DL and returning to the Yankees' lineup.
"It's obviously someone we've been waiting for for a long time," manager Joe Girardi said after New York's 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday. "We had him for one day. We won that game, so hopefully his ratio continues."
Jeter's first test will be a tough one: Rays southpaw Matt Moore, who's putting up numbers that compare to Greg Maddux.
Coming off a shutout of the Red Sox, a performance that made him just the fourth starter since 2011 to shut out Boston, Moore could become the youngest pitcher to win 15 games before the start of August since Maddux did it in 1988 as a 22-year-old.
"That was probably the best feeling I've had on the field -- being able to shake the catcher's hand for the first time," Moore said of his shutout at Fenway Park. "I've seen Roy Halladay do it a million times. A lot of guys don't complete games. Watching [James] Shields go about his business, how important that was to him, it really started creeping into my mind about when I was going to do something like that."
Moore is 6-0 in his last six starts with 44 strikeouts and just 20 hits allowed in 31 2/3 innings, posting a 1.99 ERA. The Rays' pitching staff as a whole has been electric in July, posting a 2.27 ERA while throwing a shutout in three of their last four series. Chris Archer delivered one Saturday in a 1-0 win.
"It's been outstanding to watch our guys perform," manager Joe Maddon said. "We were playing such a great game."
And the Rays' once-anemic offense has surged into the top six in the Majors. While James Loney and Desmond Jennings have been streaking hot in July, the addition of 22-year-old Wil Myers has provided more depth to the lineup. The Rays were one game above .500 when Myers arrived on June 18. Now they're 20 games above .500 at 62-42.
"We're all just having fun here," said Myers, who is hitting .323. "Everybody's doing their job. We're pitching and hitting well. I feel like we're getting timely hits, and our bullpen is coming in and shutting the door. So it's a lot of fun in the clubhouse right now. Everybody's staying loose and it's a good time."
The Yankees, who rank 21st in offense on the season, started to show signs of improvement in July until they suddenly ran into a string of great pitching. The Yanks have been shut down by the likes of Felix Doubront, Yu Darvish, Matt Garza, Derek Holland and Archer over the past 10 days.
In an effort to boost its production, New York acquired former second baseman Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs in exchange for Minor League pitcher Corey Black. The Yankees will pay just $6.8 million of the $24.5 million remaining on Soriano's contract, which runs through 2014.
Soriano hit .254 with 17 homers and 10 steals with the Cubs before joining the Yankees, who are expected to play him in left field and at designated hitter. He's 0-for-8 in his first two games in pinstripes, but he's a welcome addition.
"When you look at our club, it's been a struggle this year to score runs," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're looking for run producers and people who can hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Phil Hughes, who is 1-5 in his last seven games, will take the mound for New York on Sunday.
Rays: Loney remains hot
Loney has turned into one of the most underrated signings of the offseason, joining the Rays at a price of $2 million for one year.
After hitting just .249 with six homers in 2012, Loney, who had two more hits Saturday, continues to produce for the Rays. He hasn't hit below .282 in a month and is hitting .320 with 10 homers on the season.
"I just felt good," Loney said recently. "I'm a guy that hits the ball hard sometimes, but right at people. That was one of the things they told me coming in [to Tampa], that even last year, the amount of balls you hit hard were pretty similar to what you've done in the past.
"Sometimes you don't get any hits. That's the way the game goes sometimes. It is what it is. But I always tell people, this is what I signed up for."
• With a struggling bat and sore shoulder, Travis Hafner underwent an MRI exam Saturday that revealed a right rotator cuff strain and forced him to the 15-day disabled list.
• The Rays have made just 40 errors this season, second in the Majors to the Orioles.