Series Preview: Orioles make first trip to St. Petersburg for weekend tilt with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — After going 3-5 over the first eight games of an 11-game road trip, Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette’s apparent plan to “evaluate” following Memorial Day weekend remains a possibility. The Orioles (16-34) have struggled mighty on the road thus far in 2018, playing to a 6-21 record away from Camden Yards. The Rays got off to a rough 3-12 start, but ended the month of April with a 13-14 record and have basically played .500 baseball since, now 23-25 on the season. Like it always is in the American League East, the Rays will not go down without a fight against a struggling Baltimore ball-club.

So, Mr. Duquette, be ready to “evaluate” early next week if this weekend does not go well.

A look at the standings: Speaking of the AL East, the Rays come into the weekend 10 games behind the Red Sox (34-18), who lead the division by one game ahead of the Yankees (31-15). The Blue Jays (23-27) sit 11 games back, with the O’s 18 games out of first. The Rays won their game on Thursday night 6-3 over Boston, but lost the series 1-2 at Tropicana Field.

New approach for Tampa: The Rays are trying a new approach to managing their pitching staff as of late, and that approach is called “bullpenning.” Last weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, reliever Sergio Romo started the final two ballgames of a four game series, going 1.0 and 1.1 innings in his appearances. Ryan Yarbough (6.1 innings) took over in the third game, and the Rays used three different pitchers following Romo in the fourth game with none of them going more than 3.1 innings. This weekend, Rays relievers will start all three games versus the Orioles.

The “bullpenning” movement came to fruition due to more runs being scored in the first inning than any inning for American League teams. Another reason Tampa manager Kevin Cash is trying this with his squad is because a lot of starters, particularly veterans, struggle while pitching their third time through an order. If Cash uses a reliever to start the game, he pushes a “starter’s” third time through the order back at least an inning. Using relief pitchers to start the game for an inning or two does no harm, as they are already accustomed to pitching a few times a week for a handful of innings total.

Last meeting/season series: This marks the third series played between the AL foes this season, and the first one at Tropicana Field. The season series is tied 3-3. From May 11-13, the Orioles took three of four from the Rays at Camden Yards. The O’s outscored Tampa 35-18, including a 17-1 win on Sunday May 13’th. Kevin Gausman, David Hess, and Dylan Bundy each turned in a quality start, highlighted by Bundy’s seven-inning, two-hit performance with seven strikeouts. Manny Machado hit three home runs for seven total RBI over the first two games of the series, and then the shortstop brought in two runs on doubles during Sunday’s big win.

The Orioles went 3-6 at Tropicana Field in 2017.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1Friday, May 25, 7:10 pm – David Hess (1-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Sergio Romo (1-0, 4.34 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2Saturday, May 26, 4:10 pm – Andrew Cashner (2-5, 4.72 ERA) vs. Ryne Stanek (0-0, 5.40 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3Sunday, May 27, 1:10 pm – Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.48 ERA) vs. Sergio Romo – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Orioles:

  • At this time last week, the Orioles expected to activate Darren O’Day (hyperextended elbow) off the disabled list during the Boston series, but since then O’Day wasn’t feeling good enough to throw a scheduled Wednesday bullpen session. O’Day is reportedly waiting to see if the elbow feels any better by today (Friday), but he will likely receive cortisone shots.
  • In Thursday’s 9-3 win over the White Sox, the Orioles batted around in both the first and second innings. It marked the first time since Jun. 30, 2009 against Boston that the Orioles sent more than nine batters to the plate twice in the same game. The O’s won that game 11-10.
  • In 25.2 career innings against the Rays, Mychal Givens is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA. He’s struck out six times as many hitters (30) than he’s allowed runs (5).

Notes on the Rays:

  • In 6.2 career innings against the Orioles, Romo has a 4.05 ERA with one save.
  • The Rays play in spurts; they’re a very streaky team. They’re the only team in the majors with multiple 5-game winning streaks and five-game losing streaks this season. Last night’s win over Boston snapped a three-game losing streak. The Rays had gone on a six-game winning streak before that losing streak began.
  • Tampa is 10-6 so far this season in series openers.

Image Credit: Birds Watcher 

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