Reporting Scott Garceau
The Orioles roll into St. Pete (Tampa Bay) on a roll. Since their 6-game losing streak last month the Orioles have won 11 of 16 games. The Birds are following the Earl Weaver rule, just win series! Since the 6-game skid they haven’t lost a series. The Orioles took 2 of 3 from the Yankees, split a 4-game series in Toronto, won 3 of 4 from the Nats, 2 of 3 from the Tigers and 2 of 3 in Houston.
They’ve done it with ordinary pitching, terrific defense and booming bats. In their last 16 games the team ERA is a hefty 4.96 but the bats have bailed out the pitching scoring nearly 5 and a half runs a game batting .303 during this stretch. Jason Hammel who gets the ball tonight is the best example of how the Orioles are going. Hammel’s ERA is an ugly 5.43 but the Orioles have scored a ton of runs for him and his record looks good at 7-3.
The Rays bats were on fire the last time these teams met in Baltimore. Tampa Bay scored 25 runs in their 3 game sweep of the Orioles. It’ll be up to Hammel, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman to limit the damage this weekend at The Trop. Joe Madden’s pitchers will have their own challenge, after a 4 for 4 game Thursday in Houston JJ Hardy is 11 for his last 19. Chris Davis has 7 homers in his last 15 games and The Deputy is hitting at a .475 clip during this stretch. Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis can all make life miserable for pitchers.
The Orioles and Rays are part of a 4-team AL East pack all bunched within 4 games in the standings. I suspect these two teams will be around when the pennant race comes down the stretch in September. Tampa Bay leads the season series with the Orioles 5-4. Pennant races are decided in September but June games can decide if you’ll be in the race.