Published January 27, 2017
BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays start a four-game series at Camden Yards on Thursday that means a whole lot to the hosts while the visitors will be simply playing spoiler.
Baltimore (80-65) comes into the series after taking two of three in Boston and pulling to within one game of Boston (81-64) in the American League East and moving past Toronto into second place by one game.
Also, the Orioles now are on top of the wild-card race, leading the Blue Jays (79-66) by that one game and Detroit (78-67) by two. The Orioles will have plenty of chance to make noise in the final 17 games with 14 coming versus American League East teams.
"The guys have earned the right to play these types of games," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said on masnsports.com. "It's a very quiet confidence. They're not guys who toot their own horn. They kind of like when people sell them short, and now we're going back to a place, our city, that gets them and gets what they're doing for the last four years."
Mark Trumbo hit his major league-best 42nd homer in the second inning Wednesday, and that gave the Orioles a 1-0 victory over the Red Sox in the series finale. Zach Britton earned his 43rd save in 43 chances in the ninth inning after Kevin Gausman threw eight shutout innings.
The Orioles have struggled on the road all season but are coming off a trip where they took two of three versus Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Red Sox to go 6-3 overall.
Baltimore now is 35-40 on the road but boasts a much stronger 45-25 record at Camden Yards, where the team plays its next 11 games -- these four versus the Rays (62-83) before taking on Boston (four games) and Arizona (three).
Baltimore stands 11-4 this season versus the Rays, the most wins for the Orioles against any other club. In addition, the Orioles have a 6-0 record at home against Tampa Bay.
The Orioles still have a few injury problems. They're hoping to get set-up man Darren O'Day back from the disabled list Sunday or right after that. Joey Rickard should be activated from the DL Monday, Showalter told the media in Boston on Wednesday.
Steve Pearce received a PRP injection in his right elbow/arm on Wednesday, and his status remains unclear at this time.
Yovani Gallardo will start for the Orioles in the series opener. They skipped him the last time through the rotation as the right-hander's struggled this season, going 5-7 with a 5.44 ERA.
The Rays (62-83) come into the series after two consecutive wins over the struggling Jays. Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier both homered in Wednesday's 8-1 victory over Toronto, giving the club a new record of 200 homers in one season.
Blake Snell (5-8, 3.62 ERA) lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his last start, a loss to the Yankees on Sept. 9. He gave up three runs and made 88 pitches in that short time.
Also, this will be his first start ever versus Baltimore.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said even though his team's long been out of the playoff picture, games versus the American League East give them a good look at where they're at.
"You gauge yourself against the teams you play in your division," Cash said. "For whatever reason, we've played some good games against (Toronto). That's a trend we need to continue against the rest of the division."