(SportsNetwork.com) - It has been an eventful week for the Baltimore Orioles to say the least and the team will endure one more oddity on Friday when it begins a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
What was to be a nine-game homestand for the Orioles has instead featured two postponed games, a contest played in front of zero fans and now three "home" games against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida at Tropicana Field. All of this came about due to the protests in the city of Baltimore that turned violent this week in the wake of the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody.
Games against the Chicago White Sox on Monday and Tuesday were postponed as protests got violent and a city-wide curfew was put into place. The Orioles and White Sox then moved up the start time of Wednesday's finale to 2 p.m. ET and closed the game to the public.
Baltimore won that contest 8-2 as Chris Davis hit a three-run homer as part of a six-run first inning and Ubaldo Jimenez yielded two unearned runs over seven innings.
"We all know everything the city is going through," Jimenez said. "So that's something you put in your mind, you have to go out there and do something that would be good for the fans."
To cap the week, the Orioles will serve as the home team for three games at the Ray's Tropicana Field. They will wear white uniforms and bat in the bottom of the inning.
"It's tough. Everyone knows how much we like playing in front of our fans, how important baseball is to the city of Baltimore," said Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman on his club's website. "It goes to show how bad this really is, that we actually have to move it. You know, better safe than sorry."
Tillman will start this series opener looking to hurl the Orioles to a fourth straight victory. The right-hander has split his first four starts of the season, allowing two runs over 12 innings in the two wins while getting tagged for 14 runs in the setbacks.
Tillman was charged with seven runs on five hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings of a 7-6 loss to Toronto last Thursday. That lifted his season earned run average to 7.58.
"Other than a few pitches, I feel like I beat us tonight," Tillman said. "I walked way too many, I fell behind way too much."
The 27-year-old is 5-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 15 career meetings with the Rays and beat them at Tropicana Field on April 6 with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
The Rays return to their home field after avoiding a three-game sweep in the Bronx with Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in 13 innings. James Loney plated the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the top of the 13th.
The hit made a winner out of Brandon Gomes, who tossed two scoreless innings before Ernesto Frieri kept New York off the board in the bottom of the 13th for his second save.
"Our bullpen, what they did today, they all stood out," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Tampa Bay has won six of its last eight and is expected to give right-hander Alex Colome his season debut tonight.
Colome missed a large part of the spring training due to visa issues and was then hit with a bad bout of pneumonia, an illness that at one point required a six-day hospital stay from March 12-18.
Colome made four rehab starts ahead of this outing, two with Class-A Charlotte and another pair for Triple-A Durham. He went a combined 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
The 26-year-old has had success in limited MLB appearances over the previous two campaigns, going 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA in eight games (6 starts). He comes in with a 17 2/3-inning scoreless streak as a starter.
One of Colome's career starts came versus Baltimore on June 27 of last year and he got the win with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He allowed just two hits but did walk four.
The Orioles won two of three at Tropicana Field from April 6-8 and have taken six of the past 10 meetings overall.