Two of the top offenses in baseball square off at Tropicana Field on Friday when the Tampa Bay Rays open a three-game set with the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles are tied for a league-high 19 road wins, the latest of which came on Thursday's 3-1 series-clinching victory at Houston. Miguel Gonzalez pitched six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts, and the bullpen did the rest. J.J. Hardy went 4-for-4 at the plate for an O's offense that is hitting at a .303 clip over the last 16 games.
Hardy is 11-for-19 so for this month, while Chris Davis continues to hit everything in his path. The first baseman tacked on another two hits on Thursday and is hitting .475 with seven home runs over his last 15 games.
"He's just so steady, a steady human being. J.J., he likes to win," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's at a stage in his career where he has individual accomplishments, he's established himself as a quality shortstop. He doesn't tolerate things that aren't conducive to winning, especially from himself."
The Rays hope to cool down Davis and company as they begin a key 10-game homestand. Tampa Bay has a chance to make up some ground in the AL East standings, as 16 of the team's next 20 games are against division foes.
The Rays closed out the month of May with a six-game winning streak, but they are off to a 2-3 start in June. They lost Thursday's rubber match in Detroit, 5-2, as the offense managed only six hits for the game. Roberto Hernandez allowed four runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings for his sixth loss of the season.
Now, the Rays will turn to Chris Archer, who makes his second start since being called up from the minors. Archer made his season debut last Saturday in Cleveland, where he allowed a pair of home runs and was charged with five earned runs in just four innings.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it," said Archer, who is making his first home start. "All the fans gave me a lot of support last year, and even throughout the year on Twitter and through other venues, just talking me up, staying positive. I'm looking forward to being able to pitch in front of the home crowd."
Orioles starter Jason Hammel was ejected last Saturday after giving Detroit's Matt Tuiasosopo some chin music. The high-and-inside pitch came after Hammel surrendered three straight home runs, and home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt wasted little time sending his message. Hammel is 7-3 on the season despite a 5.43 ERA.
Tampa Bay swept the O's last month in a three-game set at Camden Yards. The Rays scored 25 runs in that series. However, Baltimore has since won 11 of 16.