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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Orioles offense dominates in series win over Rays

Game 1 (9-4 BAL): The Orioles kept their momentum rolling into this weekends series against Tampa Bay to win their third game in a row. While that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, it marked the longest win streak on the year for the O’s.

Kevin Gausman continued to stay hot on the mound as well. The Orioles starter followed up last weeks nine inning shutout with a strong 7.1 inning performance in which he struck out six and gave up just a pair of runs. Since kicking off the year with a rough outing Gausman has settled in and lowered his ERA from 13.50 to 3.18 in eight starts.

Richard Bleier entered the game after Gausman looking to finish off the eighth inning. Unfortunately it ended up being rough performance for the O’s reliever. Coming into Friday’s game Bleier had surrendered just one earned run in 22.2 innings of relief. Friday was a rare poor performance for Bleier who quickly allowed another pair of runs while recording just one out.

The good news is the Orioles offense had just pushed five runs across in the previous inning to make it a 8-1 game so Bleier’s miscues were not costly. Brad Brach recorded the final out of the eighth and then picked up his fifth save of the year by closing it out in the ninth.

The Orioles offense put up nine runs thanks to a huge night by Manny Machado. The O’s shortstop launched two home runs, including a grand slam in the seventh, to pick up six RBI’s. The grand slam also marked Machado’s 150th career home run.

Game 2 (6-3 BAL): The Orioles started Saturday’s doubleheader with another solid game from both the offense and pitching. David Hess made his major league debut and earned the first win of his career by giving up just three runs in six innings of work.

With the rotation struggling to find consistency so far this year, there were some major concerns coming into this weekend surrounding the bullpen. A doubleheader is never easy to manage but Hess certainly helped by making his way through six innings before turning it over to the relievers. A three run homer by Matt Duffy in the first inning was the only blemish in Hess’ debut.

Manny Machado continued to dominate with another solo shot in the third while Jonathan Schoop picked up his first multi home run game of the year. Almost lost in the excitement of Machado and Schoop’s homers was some great base running by Chance Sisco. The O’s catcher picked up an RBI double in the second and stole home later in that inning. Coincidentally it was Sisco’s first stolen base of his career. The last Oriole to do the same was Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982.

Game 3 (10-3 TB): The second half of Saturday’s doubleheader was not as kind to the Orioles. Alex Cobb surrendered a run in each of the first four innings against his former team leading to an early 4-1 lead for the visiting Rays.

A heavy rain storm hit Baltimore in the sixth inning, forcing about an hour long delay. The Orioles used this break to regroup and managed to cut the Tampa Bay lead to just one shorty after the storm let up and play resumed. Trey Mancini got it started with an RBI single and Jonathan Schoop added the second run on a productive ground out.

However, the Rays would go on to pad their lead with six more runs in the final three innings. Jimmy Yacabonis, Pedro Araujo and Mike Wright pitched in relief for the Orioles and combined to give up the late innings runs, leading to a 10-3 win for Tampa Bay.

Game 4 (17-1 BAL): The O’s got back on track for Sunday’s series finale. Many were praising the return of the Orioles offense earlier this week but Sunday’s 17-1 blowout made it official.

It was an all around great effort by the Orioles that started with Dylan Bundy redeeming himself after making one of the worst starts in MLB history this past Tuesday. The O’s starter stifled the Rays offense with seven shutout innings of work in which he gave up just two hits.

Donnie Hart came in to pitch the eighth inning and gave up two hits and a run on 20 pitches. Mike Wright followed him and closed out the ninth with a quick 12-pitch inning to secure a series win for the O’s.

The Offense was the star of the day though. The O’s batters put up 17 runs, the most since August 25 of last year when they beat the Red Sox 16-3. Joey Rickard led the way in his third game of the season by going 3-5 at the plate with a pair of home runs and five RBI’s. Danny Valencia was just as impressive, grabbing four hits and four RBI’s of his own. All nine starters picked up at least one hit and the lineup batted around two times over the course of Sunday afternoon’s game.

Up next: The Orioles will have Monday off before wrapping up their home stand with a brief two game series against the Phillies starting Tuesday. This will mark the first interleague matchup of the 2018 season for the O’s.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP