Rays, Orioles continue series down south

Separated by just one-half game in the American League East standings, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays continue their three-game series Saturday at Tropicana Field.

Despite owning the second-most road wins in the AL entering the series with a total of 19, the Orioles came out on the short end of a 2-1 decision on Friday, yet they are still ahead of Tampa Bay in the standings and only three games off the pace for the top spot in the division.

Nearly silencing the Baltimore bats was Rays starter Chris Archer, who allowed just two hits and a couple of walks, leading to a single run through seven innings of work. Pitching a perfect ninth, Fernando Rodney matched Archer with a pair of strikeouts in order to log his 13th save of 2013.

"It was good to see my work coming to fruition," said Archer. "I've never said that word before. "I felt I was in control the whole time, honestly. I was able to stay within myself and execute pitches. It was one of those special nights that you try to tap into every game. Every pitch, I was telling myself what I wanted to do."

Offensively, Tampa Bay was carried by Desmond Jennings, who knocked in both runs in the seventh with his sixth home run of the season. James Loney, who scored ahead of Jennings, accounted for a pair of hits.

Suffering the hard-luck loss was Jason Hammel. He made it through 6 2/3 innings, allowing those two runs on a total of six hits and two walks. Hammel has now dropped two straight and three of his last five decisions.

"I like the pitching duel, because it's fun, it's suspenseful and it means both guys are on their game and executing pitches," said Hammel, who tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball. "Tonight, it just ended up being the one run that cost us and myself, the team, the game. It (stinks), but we have plenty more games to play. It was honestly just a good game tonight."

Limited to just two hits in the meeting, the lone run for the Orioles came in the top of the third when Manny Machado singled to center to plate Chris Dickerson with two outs.

Appearing in just his fourth major league game, rookie hurler Kevin Gausman again guns for his first-ever win as he takes the mound for the Orioles Saturday afternoon.

Gausman, a first-round draft pick and the fourth overall selection in 2012, had his best outing last weekend when he made it through six innings against Detroit at home, giving up just one run on five hits. The O's picked up the 4-2 triumph, but the LSU product failed to factor into the decision.

As for the Rays, Jeremy Hellickson aims for back-to-back wins for the first time this season. The right-hander, who had only two victories through the first two months of the campaign, came up with a win last weekend against Cleveland even though he lasted just five innings.

Versus the Tribe, Hellickson scattered nine hits, leading to three runs, while striking out four in an 11-3 triumph.

Hellickson has gone up against Baltimore more than any other club in his career (14 games) and has a 7-3 record to show for his efforts.

As division foes, these two teams have already met 10 times this season, with six of the victories being credited to a Tampa Bay squad which has won four straight and five of the last six in this series.