Published August 04, 2012
| Sports Network
The Tampa Bay Rays look to extend their lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East to two games when the two squads face off in game two of a weekend series on Saturday at Tropicana Field.
The two squads were deadlocked in second place in the AL East entering Friday night's matchup, but the Rays came away with a 2-0 win and the edge in standings in both the division and in the Wild Card. New York leads the AL East by 6 1/2 games over Tampa Bay and 7 1/2 games in front of the Orioles.
Matt Moore pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball and the bullpen did the rest, including a scoreless ninth inning for Fernando Rodney, who picked up his 32nd save of the season.
B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings both hit solo home runs for the Rays to account for the offensive output of either team. Upton's 425-foot home run in the fourth inning was the 100th of his career. His brother, Justin, also hit his 100th career homer in Philadelphia last night.
Tampa Bay has won three straight and five of its last six games.
Tommy Hunter took the loss for Baltimore after surrendering two runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters each went 2-for-4 for the Orioles, who did not record an extra base hit in the game. Baltimore had won three of its previous four games entering play.
Tampa Bay will turn to Jeremy Hellickson in the second game of the series.
It's tough to say that a starting pitcher with an ERA of 3.23 has taken a step back, but after such a stellar 2011 campaign, Hellickson's 2012 season has not matched up.
The 25-year-old won the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award by posting a 13-10 record with an ERA of 2.95.
This season has been a bit more of a learning curve for Hellickson, who will be trying to push his record above .500 for the first time since he won his first four decisions to open the season. Hellickson is currently 6-6 through his first 19 starts of 2012.
Part of the slight decline from last season were the injury issues that plagued Hellickson in late June. He has bounced back nicely from that and lasted at least six innings in each of his five starts in July after failing to do so in three of four starts in June.
In his most recent start, he earned his second straight win in as many starts by pitching six innings of shutout baseball in a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Hellickson has made three appearances against the Orioles this season and finally picked up a win against them in his last start in Baltimore. Hellickson allowed one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings in that one.
The right-hander has had a great deal of success against Baltimore in his career. He is 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA in nine career starts against the Orioles.
Trying to become the first Baltimore pitcher to record double-digit victories on the season, Wei-Yin Chen will oppose Hellickson in this matchup.
Chen has split his last four decisions and on the season is 9-6 overall for the surprising Orioles. His 3.65 ERA is currently second among Baltimore starters and his 128 1/3 innings pitched is by far the best among that same group.
The 26-year-old Taiwanese rookie lasted just 5 2/3 innings in his last outing, but was dominant during the start. He allowed one unearned run on three hits and four walks while striking out a career-high 12 batters.
That win over the Oakland Athletics came on the heels of a loss to the same Rays squad he will face on Saturday. It was a decent appearance for Chen, who allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings of work in a 3-1 loss.
Overall, Chen has faced Tampa Bay twice during his first year in the majors and both times he ended up on the losing end. In the previous start on June 1, Chen allowed five runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 5-0 loss. Part of his struggles with the Rays have come from a lack of run support with the Orioles combining for just one run in each of his starts against the AL East opponents.
Tampa Bay holds a 6-4 edge in the 10 contests with the Orioles this season.