BALTIMORE — Going into the 2018 season, a lot of people (myself included) pointed to the Orioles’ starting rotation as the team’s biggest concern. 23 games into the 2018 campaign, the rotation is actually the most consistent unit of this Orioles ball club. Instead, Baltimore’s offense has put up numbers that, even with solid starting pitching, are nearly impossible to compete with.

The Orioles are averaging 3.17 runs-per-game, worst in the major leagues. Unlike in previous seasons, the offense has been particularly bad at home. Over their first 10 games played at Camden Yards this season, the Birds have scored two runs or fewer six times. Even with Andrew Cashner (Sun: 6.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 7K) and Kevin Gausman (Mon: 8.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7K) turning in solid outings against the Indians, the offense produced four runs between two games, both losses.

In the midst of their longest home stand of the 2018 season, a 10-game stretch (three series), the Orioles now welcome American League East-rival Tampa Bay to town for three games. This is the first of five series between the two teams on the 2018 schedule. The Rays (8-13) and the Orioles (6-17) sit in the cellar of the division, with Boston (17-4), Toronto (13-8), and the Yankees (12-9) all above .500.

Tampa and Baltimore are similar teams in terms of statistics. The Rays rank 22nd in both team ERA (4.71) and runs scored (88), while Baltimore ranks 23rd in team ERA (4.83) and 24th in runs scored (73). The Rays, winners of five of their last six contests, are on a four-game win streak that included a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field over the weekend.

Flashback: The Orioles went 8-11 against the Rays in 2017. The two teams played 10 of those games at Camden Yards, splitting 5-5. As a team, the Orioles pitched to a 4.93 ERA against Tampa, and hit .240. The Rays owned a 3.87 ERA against Baltimore last season with a .263 batting average.

Injury updates: Last night against Cleveland, infielder Tim Beckham left in the eighth inning with a groin injury that he apparently re-aggravated from spring training. After the game, manager Buck Showalter said that Beckham has also been dealing with a sore Achilles tendon. According to a tweet from Roch Kubatko of MASN, Beckham could be heading to the disabled list.

Mark Trumbo began a rehab assignment on Monday at Double-A Bowie, playing first base. At the plate, he went 1-for-3 with a walk. Trumbo suffered a grade 2 quad strain during spring training. The plan is for Trumbo to stay in Bowie and then head to Charlotte with the Norfolk Tides this weekend. He could return to the O’s next week if all goes according to plan.

After suffering a laceration on his knee while crashing into the left field wall during Friday’s game against Cleveland, Trey Mancini came off the bench to pinch-hit in last night’s 2-1 loss. Mancini suffered no structural damage to his knee, but required stitches. He’s questionable to play in tonight’s series opener.

Although there is no timetable for his return from an oblique injury suffered on Apr. 14, Jonathan Schoop resumed baseball activities yesterday and ran before the series finale.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Tuesday, Apr. 24, 7:05 pm – Jake Faria (1-1, 5.82 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (0-2, 15.43 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Wednesday, Apr. 25, 7:05 pm – Chris Archer (1-1, 6.59 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (1-2, 1.42 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Thursday, Apr. 26, 7:05 pm – TBD vs. Chris Tillman (0-4, 9.87 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Rays:

  • Outfielder Mallex Smith ranks eighth in batting average in the majors, hitting .344 with 21 hits in 61 at-bats.
  • Lifetime at Camden Yards, Archer is 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA in six starts, seven appearances.
  • While the Orioles’ offense slumps, the Rays’ bats have been on fire lately. In their weekend sweep of the Twins, Tampa scored 26 runs over three games, with at least eight runs scored in each of those games.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Tuesday marks Cobb’s first start against the club that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. This is also Cobb’s first Oriole start at Camden Yards. Although Cobb has been awful in his first two starts in an Orioles uniform, remember that he’s still in spring training mode. After all, Baltimore signed Cobb just nine days before the regular season began. Be patient, Birdland.
  • Three Orioles – Beckham, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones – have struck out 24 times or more this season. The Orioles lead the major leagues with 10.30 strikeouts-per-game.

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