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Orioles-Rays series preview: Back into the AL East grinder

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Following a series loss to the Houston Astros, the O’s look to get back on track against a division rival.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 MLB season thus far. Heading into the season, the most anyone talked about the Rays was when Chris Archer was mentioned up as a valuable trade chip. Now, more than halfway through the season, the Florida team is in the thick of the AL East race and look to be buyers at the deadline.

However, they have struggled a tad against the division rival Orioles this season. The two teams have met up nine times already. Baltimore holds a 5-4 advantage in the season series. But Tampa has scored more runs in those games, 49 to 46.

The three-game set will take place at Tropicana Field, where the Rays have been exceptional this summer. They currently boast a 27-21 record at home, while the O’s have struggled to a paltry 17-30 record away from Camden Yards.

Both teams hit boatloads of home runs, but the Rays have become the premier power club of the AL East. Their 143 round-trippers are the fifth most in all of base. The O’s are eighth with 139 bombs.

Tampa’s offense is led by a four-headed monster of Logan Morrison, Steven Souza Jr., Chris Dickerson and Evan Longoria. Morrison leads the team in home runs (26), walks (57), and slugging percentage (.558). Souza is the best on the club in RBI (61) and on-base percentage (.369). Dickson is the batting average leader (.311) and Longoria remains a steady force in the lineup. Should be quite a task for the O’s struggling rotation.

Game 1 - Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Starting pitchers: Kevin Gausman ( 6-7, 6.11 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (0-5, 4.98 ERA)

Over his last six starts, Gausman has had a mixed bag of performances. The best outing of the bunch was seven shutout innings against the Rays on July 2 at Camden Yards. That day, he allowed just two hits, two walks and struck out nine Tampa hitters.

But he has also been clobbered by the Twins and Cubs recently. He was good against Texas last week, but it has gotten to the point where you never know which Gausman will show up. Alas, the rotation has been so bad that it doesn’t really matter. He will get the ball every fifth day regardless.

Snell, a 23-year-old, is stuck at that point in his career where he can go down to Triple-A Durham and dominate, but struggles a bit at the major league level. He still has a lot to learn about the bigs and how to get hitters out at this level.

The one appearance he has against the Orioles was back in September when he lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up four runs on six hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The lefty has only gotten past the sixth inning once this year, and that was in the first week of the season. But these are the Orioles, so expect a complete game shut out.

Game 2 - Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Starting pitchers: Wade Miley (4-8, 5.56 ERA) vs. Jacob Faria (4-1, 2.52 ERA)

The Orioles southpaw was originally drafted by Tampa Bay back in 2005 out of high school, but he didn’t sign, opting for college instead. Going off of his performances this season, the Rays dodged a bullet.

Miley’s last “good” start was on July 8 when he allowed one run over 5.2 innings. But he hasn’t had a noteworthy performance since June 1 when he allowed just one run over seven innings against Boston. The Rays have seen Miley just once this season, April 25 when he got the hard luck loss after giving up two runs on four hits, SIX walks and eight strikeouts over seven frames.

How jealous are the Orioles of the Rays and their wealth of young arms? Faria just turned 23 in June and, based on current form, would be the ace of the Baltimore staff.

This will be the third time the righty has started against the O’s in about a month. Over his first two starts, he nabbed two no decisions after allowing five earned runs on nine hits, one walk and 13 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.

Game 3 - Wednesday, 12:10 p.m. ET
Starting pitchers: Ubaldo Jimenez (4-6, 7.19 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb 8-6, 3.57 ERA)

How bad is the Orioles starting pitching? It’s late July, Ubaldo Jimenez may be the worst pitcher in baseball, and he still gets to start games. It really is incredible. We have heard it all before. We know he is a great guy who works hard and still has raw talent, but he’s just been so, so bad.

His last start against the Rays: June 23 when he allowed NINE runs on seven hits, four walks and one strikeout in 2.1 innings. But you know how he followed it up? Eight scoreless innings against Toronto. Such a tease.

Over his career, Cobb has good numbers against the O’s (2.69 ERA in 10 starts), but he was lit up earlier this month to the tune of six earned runs in 6.1 innings.

The righty continually pitches into the seventh inning, at least. Even when he struggles, he makes sure to save the bullpen some work. Imagine that! A pitcher that is capable of cleaning up after himself.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Rays?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    0
    (11 votes)
  • 38%
    1
    (74 votes)
  • 42%
    2
    (81 votes)
  • 13%
    3
    (25 votes)
191 votes total Vote Now