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O's start crucial set with Rays at Camden Yards

After being unable to gain ground on first place in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles next have to worry about keeping a hold on their wild card position.

For the Tampa Bay Rays, they enter a week in which they can make up some serious ground in their quest for a postseason spot.

The Rays begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday night with the first of three straight games with the Orioles in a pivotal division matchup.

The O's finish up their seven-game stay at home with this series following a four-game split with the first-place New York Yankees. That left Baltimore a game behind New York in the division and also just a game up on Tampa Bay for the league's second wild card position.

The Rays are making a late charge, having won six of eight. That includes series wins over the Yankees and AL West-leading Texas Rangers on a recent homestand. They'll now visit Baltimore to begin this week before another big weekend series in the Bronx against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay earned the series win over Texas thanks to Sunday's 6-0 victory that featured three home runs by B.J. Upton and a gem on the mound from starter James Shields.

Upton's first career three-homer game backed a two-hit shutout by Shields, who also struck out eight and did not walk a batter.

"You kind of dream about doing things like that and they don't happen very often," said Upton, who is hitting .407 in eight September games with five homers.

Hoping to mimic Shields tonight will be left-hander Matt Moore, who has lost two straight starts.

Moore pitched well in a 2-0 setback to the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 30, but was tagged for six runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and a walk with nine strikeouts over 6 1/3 frames of a 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday.

That dropped the 23-year-old to 10-9 with a 3.66 earned run average in 27 starts this season.

Moore has given Baltimore all it can handle this season, going 2-1 against the club in three starts while posting a 1.15 ERA.

The Orioles hope to solve Moore on Tuesday after a rough series finale versus the Yankees on Sunday. After getting three runs in the fourth inning to cut their deficit to two, the O's managed just a hit over 5 2/3 frames against New York's bullpen in a 13-3 defeat.

Zach Britton took the loss, allowing five runs on five hits and five walks in just 3 1/3 innings.

"Obviously we didn't want to split, we wanted to win (the series)," Britton said. "But we have a lot of games left and we're in a good place."

Baltimore's quest for a playoff spot took an additional hit in the series when Nick Markakis suffered a fractured left thumb in Saturday's win. He is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday and hopes to return in four weeks.

Jason Hammel recently returned from injury himself and he makes his second start for Baltimore after missing nearly two months of action following knee surgery.

The 30-year-old righty made his first start since July 13 on Thursday and did not factor into Baltimore's series-opening 10-6 win over the Yankees. He allowed a run on six hits and two walks over five-plus innings and stayed in the game despite taking a liner off his right elbow.

Hammel, who had lost four straight starts before his injury and hasn't won since June 22, is 8-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 19 starts this season and faces the Rays for the first time.

The Rays and Orioles have split 12 meetings so far this season, including six encounters in Baltimore.