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Game 61: Orioles (34-26) @ Rays (32-27), 7:10

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Hi, Jason Hammel. Why is your ERA over 5? Could you please work on that tonight?

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Party time in Houston is over. The Orioles head to Tampa Bay for a three-game series. The Rays are 17-10 at home. They, like the Orioles, have won seven of their last ten games. Despite being 1.5 games behind the Orioles in the standings, the little playoff odds on ESPN gives them a 46.3% chance of being in the playoffs, with the Orioles having a 31.9% chance. Your guess is as good as mine.

The young Chris Archer is tonight's Rays starter. He's appeared in a total of seven games at the MLB level, making five starts, only one of which was this year. In his one start this year, he gave up seven hits and three walks in only four innings. We know he's better than that, because he's a Rays pitcher. They don't collect guys who suck. Archer has always struck out a lot of guys but also issued a lot of walks. That may explain his problem, but as I often counsel, we have no idea what to expect in any one game.

A right-handed pitcher who averages over 95mph on his fastball, Archer is fully capable of whiffing fifteen batters tonight. Or maybe he'll get lit up, which would be the better scenario.

With Jason Hammel starting, the Orioles will need the runs. Most of the time, they need the runs, anyway. A 5.43 ERA doesn't happen for no good reason, and the reason is that Hammel gives up a billion home runs, and also a lot of hits in general. He's gone six innings in at least eight of his twelve starts, but only five of them have been quality starts.

The Rays batter with the most plate appearances against Hammel is James Loney, who has the seldom-seen OBP below batting average in his games against Hammel. He's also slugging .636, so that is encouraging. Or not. The next-most is Kelly Johnson, with 26 PA, and he's slugging .625. That's five home runs between those two players. Luke Scott has also hit Hammel well in more limited action (11 PA).

I often use the phrase about relievers like Jim Johnson and Pedro Strop, but perhaps it applies for Hammel, too: hold on to your butts.

In his last six games at the Trop, Chris Davis has hit five home runs.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES TAMPA BAY RAYS
Nate McLouth - LF Matt Joyce - RF
Manny Machado - 3B Ben Zobrist - 2B
Nick Markakis - RF Kelly Johnson - LF
Adam Jones - CF Evan Longoria - 3B
Chris Davis - 1B James Loney - 1B
Matt Wieters - C Desmond Jennings - CF
J.J. Hardy - SS Luke Scott - DH
Chris Dickerson - DH Jose Molina - C
Ryan Flaherty - 2B Yunel Escobar - SS