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Friday night Orioles game thread: at Rays, 6:40

The now first-place Orioles will hope to extend their lead behind their best starting pitcher at the moment.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
Kyle Bradish has a chance to pitch the Orioles to a two-game division lead.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Hey, have you heard the news? The Orioles are alone in first place.

Thanks to their exhilarating win in yesterday’s opener, the Birds have opened up a one-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East. But three games remain in this pivotal series at Tropicana Field, and the O’s will need to keep bringing their A game to hold off a Rays team angling to reclaim the catbird seat.

The Orioles have the right guy on the mound to try to extend their lead. Kyle Bradish has been lights out in three starts in July, allowing just one earned run in 19.1 innings for an 0.47 ERA, including 15.1 consecutive scoreless frames. He’s racked up more strikeouts (20) than baserunners (18) in that span. Bradish has been fairly reliable all season — only twice has he allowed more than three runs in a game — and he won his previous start against the Rays this year, holding them to two runs in five innings in Tampa Bay on June 20. He has a good opportunity for another strong start against a recently slumping Rays offense.

Tampa Bay will counter with veteran righty Zach Eflin, who’s been impressive in his first year with the Rays (3.59 ERA, 1.025 WHIP) but is coming off his worst start of the year, in which he coughed up five runs in just three innings to the lowly Royals. Back in May, the Orioles handed Eflin his first loss of the year, tagging him for four runs in six frames in Baltimore.

After loading up with their best infield defenders last night behind ground ball guy Kyle Gibson, the O’s are going with a more offense-oriented lineup tonight, benching Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías in favor of Adam Frazier and Jordan Westburg. They also have Ryan Mountcastle in the lineup against a righty, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but it’s hard to question a team that’s in first place.

First place. Sure has a nice ring to it, huh?

Orioles lineup:

SS Gunnar Henderson
C Adley Rutschman
RF Anthony Santander
1B Ryan O’Hearn
DH Ryan Mountcastle
LF Austin Hays
CF Colton Cowser
2B Adam Frazier
3B Jordan Westburg

RHP Kyle Bradish

Rays lineup:

1B Yandy Díaz
SS Wander Franco
RF Luke Raley
LF Randy Arozarena
3B Isaac Paredes
2B Brandon Lowe
DH Harold Ramírez
CF Jose Siri
C Christian Bethancourt

RHP Zach Eflin