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Orioles-Rays series preview: The battle for the AL East

The Rays come to town for a four-game series with a playoff feel. Can Baltimore rise to the occasion and take control of the AL East at Camden Yards?

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Orioles will enter the biggest series of the season after suffering arguably their worst loss of the season. Baltimore failed to score against a pitcher it traded away earlier this season and a St. Louis team positioned dead last in the NL Central. The loss dropped Baltimore’s lead in the division to two before a pivotal four-game series against the Rays.

Fortunately, the Orioles immediately have an opportunity to better the vibes in Birdland. The Orioles can extend their division lead with a series victory this weekend at Camden Yards. Baltimore only needs one win to secure the season tiebreaker over Tampa, but the club must manage a series split at a minimum to keep things rolling.

The bats are in definite need of a spark after going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday and failing to score last night. There’s no way of knowing whether the team may have been looking ahead to this weekend, but the series is here now. It’s go time.

Game 1: Thursday, September 14, 7:15. FOX

RHP Kyle Bradish (11-6, 3.03 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Civale (7-3, 2.96 ERA)

It seems appropriate that the Orioles would send this year’s ace to the mound for Game 1. This may not officially qualify as a playoff series, but Brandon Hyde and the gang will certainly approach it like one. Bradish has pitched exactly six innings and allowed two runs or less in his last five starts. A strong start should help preserve the bullpen for the remainder of the series.

The Rays acquired Civale from Cleveland at the trade deadline in exchange for a well-regarded hitting prospect, Kyle Manzardo. Civale allowed four runs to Seattle in a no decision last week, but the four earned marked his highest run total since June 25.

Bradish and Civale will mark the first of eight right-handed pitchers set to start in this series. With neither team set to send a southpaw to the mound, do not expect to see much of Jorge Mateo and James McCann. Cedric Mullins, Ryan O’Hearn and Adam Frazier should all have opportunities to be successful in the series.

Game 2: Friday, September 15, 7:05. Apple TV

RHP Jack Flaherty (8-8, 4.98 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Eflin (14-8, 3.53 ERA)

Flaherty still has an opportunity to return to form, but people are growing impatient. The former Cardinal failed to complete the fourth inning his last time out against Boston and allowed four runs in 4.2 innings against Arizona. Every start has represented some type of audition for the postseason rotation, but Flaherty will likely find himself on the chopping block if he struggles in this one.

The Orioles need Flaherty to right the ship because the offense could struggle against Eflin. The Rays prize free agent signing has done a tremendous job giving his team a chance to win. The 29-year-old has laid a few eggs against Cleveland and Kansas City, but he has not allowed more than three earned in his last five starts.

Game 3: Saturday, September 16, 7:05. MASN

RHP Grayson Rodriguez (5-4, 4.88 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Glasnow (9-5, 3.15 ERA)

Rodriguez and Glasnow will battle in the pitching matchup that contains the most raw talent. Rodriguez has looked the part of a front-end starter in the second half. The game will mark the most significant outing of the rookie’s career. Rodriguez could show some nerves, but he’s already no stranger to high-profile pitching matchups this season.

Glasnow has dominated in the second half with a 2.53 ERA over 64 innings. The former Pirates prospects boasts a 78/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio since the break.

Game 4: Sunday, September 17, 1:35. MASN

RHP Dean Kremer (12-5, 4.25 ERA) vs. RHP Zack Littell (3-6, 4.25 ERA)

Kremer had entered a solid groove before snapping back to reality with a pair of short outings. The righty has the stuff to compete against the Rays, but this feels like a game where Hyde could have a quick hook. Kremer tossed six scoreless innings against Tampa Bay in back in May.

Littell has pitched well for the Rays as of late. The righty pounds the zone but has been susceptible to the long ball in the past. The Orioles would love to chase Littell with a few big blasts in the series finale. Tampa’s bullpen ranks just inside the top 10 with a 3.74 ERA.


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

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    4 (Orioles sweep)
    (40 votes)
  • 20%
    (135 votes)
  • 59%
    (394 votes)
  • 12%
    (82 votes)
  • 2%
    0 (Orioles get swept)
    (16 votes)
667 votes total Vote Now