By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) — The AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles are looking forward to getting back home after suffering their first road sweep of the year.
Baltimore is also trying to avoid a season worst-tying fourth consecutive defeat in Monday night’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Orioles (73-55) wrapped up a 4-5 road trip with Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Wrigley Field. Steve Pearce provided all the offense with his 14th homer for Baltimore, which managed four runs in losing all three meetings to the last-place Chicago Cubs over the weekend.
“We’ve got a good team,” Pearce told MLB’s official website. “This is only a hiccup in our season. We’re going to go home and take care of business, and we’re going to flush this road trip out of our system.”
The Orioles’ skid is their longest since a four-game slide May 27-30. They also lost four straight April 2-5 and May 11-14.
“Every team this time of year has some challenges physically and mentally and emotionally,” said manager Buck Showalter, whose team has won 15 of its last 20 at Camden Yards. “You get on the plane, you head toward some friendly faces and hopefully we can get back to feeling good about postgame.”
Baltimore has won each of Chris Tillman’s last five starts, during which he’s gone 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA. The right-hander allowed one run and three hits over eight innings to beat the White Sox 5-1 on Tuesday.
Tillman (10-5, 3.55) has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his 13 outings in Baltimore, where he owns a 2.76 ERA. His home record, however, is 3-5 – partly due to receiving a combined three runs of support in those defeats.
Tillman threw eight innings of one-run ball opposite Jake Odorizzi in a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay on June 27, improving to 2-1 with a 3.46 ERA in his last four starts in the series. While Evan Longoria is 13 for 30 with five homers in their matchups, Desmond Jennings is 2 for 20. Ben Zobrist and James Loney have also struggled, going 6 for 35 and 3 for 19, respectively.
Odorizzi (9-10, 3.83) is looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s 6-0 loss to Detroit. The right-hander, who had won five of his previous six starts, yielded three runs over 6 2-3 innings.
He has won each of his four road outings since the start of last month behind a 2.59 ERA. Odorizzi has struck out 28 and walked five over 24 1-3 innings during those appearances.
Odorizzi has gone 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA while receiving a combined four runs of support in three matchups against the Orioles this year. Nelson Cruz is 0 for 7 against him, but Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are a combined 10 for 19 with three extra-base hits.
“They are a tough team and really don’t have a soft spot in the lineup,” Odorizzi said of Baltimore. “This is the team we need to try to make up ground on.”
The Rays (64-66) are 10 games behind the Orioles after winning three of their last four. Longoria drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning in Sunday’s 2-1 victory at Toronto, his fifth RBI in the last three games.
The Rays are a major league-best 21-6 on the road since June 28. They are 4-8 against the Orioles this year after winning three of their last four in Baltimore.
Updated August 24, 2014
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