GameThread: Orioles (40-75) @ Rays (69-45), 7:10pm

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If anything or anyone was going to put a damper on Buck mania, a start from Kevin Millwood probably would have been the most likely bet to do it. The Mentor actually got a quality start for his trouble last night but it was one of those games where it just felt like we were never in it, and enthusiasm was continually being sapped the longer he was on the mound.

The Orioles look to get back in the good karma column tonight behind Jeremy Guthrie. Guts has been the most, and really only, consistent pitcher on the staff this season, not that he's been rewarded for that effort much by the team. His 4.04 ERA is the lowest of the starters. Let's never mind that three Rays starters have ERAs lower than that. The good news is that none of those three are pitching tonight.

James Shields goes for the Rays and the last time he pitched he gave up six home runs to Toronto in only four innings of work. Luke Scott has to be salivating given the power surge he's on. But Shields will also strike out a lot of guys, with over 8 K/9 and nearly 4 K/BB on the season. That would generally bode poorly for the O's this season but the hitters have seemed different since Buck came along and perhaps there will be a good plan in action tonight.

At the Trop, who knows what will happen. Will the ball carom off a catwalk? Will the hideous carpet cause a freak injury? Will even 20,000 people attend the game when their team is in the pennant race and leading for the AL Wild Card? The O's are 2-7 against the Rays on the year, but five of those losses came during that ridiculously bad 2-16 start to the season, and we all know it's a whole new Orioles experience now.

Man, speaking of that 2-16 start, Matt Albers was 0-3 at the end of it. Those were some really dark days. I think I'd blocked out how terrible it was until I went fishing for stats for this post. Win or lose tonight, I think we can all feel agree things are better now. But winning's a hell of a lot more fun to watch, so, go O's!


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