By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) — With inconsistent run production the last few games, the Baltimore Orioles are hoping Miguel Gonzalez won’t have much difficulty regaining the form he showed before a stint on the disabled list.
Gonzalez is scheduled to return from a strained right oblique Tuesday night against the resurgent Tampa Bay Rays.
Baltimore (35-34) has averaged 2.7 runs over its past nine games and has failed to register 10 hits in any of them. The Orioles were blanked for the first five innings in Monday’s series opener at Tropicana Field but rallied to tie the gamebefore Jerry Sands’ pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth inning gave the Rays a 5-4 victory.
“We’ll try to shake it off and have a better feeling (Tuesday),” said manager Buck Showalter, whose Orioles now look to avoid dropping to .500 for the first time since May 31.
Gonzalez (3-4, 4.17 ERA) will try to prevent that from happening in his first appearance since May 30. Before his injury, the right-hander had allowed two runs and pitched at least six innings in four consecutive starts, going 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA. Before that stretch, Gonzalez was 1-3 with a 5.28 ERA in six starts but earned that lone win against Tampa Bay on April 16.
He yielded three hits in five innings of a 3-0 home victory while striking out six. Gonzalez is 3-2 with a 2.44 ERA in his last eight starts versus the Rays and has a 1.75 ERA in four at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (28-43) had been 0-5 against Baltimore before Monday’s victory, its fourth in five games overall after losing 14 of 15.
Erik Bedard (3-4, 3.83) hasn’t faced the Orioles, with whom he spent his first four seasons, since 2012. He won his first game against his former team in 2009 but has since gone 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in five matchups.
The left-hander went six innings and struck out a season-best eight in a 4-0 win over Seattle on June 6, but his latest outing Wednesday against St. Louis brought up a familiar theme. He failed to make it through five innings for the third time in four starts, getting pulled after the fourth as he allowed eight hits and three runs in a 6-3 win.
Adam Jones is 6 for 12 against Bedard and is batting .364 with six homers in his last 14 games.
Desmond Jennings is 4 for 11 with two homers against Gonzalez in the past two seasons, and he had his third multihit effort in five games Monday.
Sands, though, was the hero for the second straight night with his first homer since Sept. 20, 2011. He drove in the winning run in Sunday’s 4-3 victory at Houston on a broken-bat single.
“We won a really tough game (Sunday), we won a really tough game here (Monday),” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you start believing you’re going to win games late, that’s a good feeling to get.”
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