The Tampa Bay Rays look to continue their climb in the American League East standings when they begin a three-game set against the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Friday. The Rays have won four of their last five contests and can move four games over .500 for the first time this season with a victory in the series opener.
Logan Morrison (21 home runs, 51 RBIs) and Corey Dickerson (.326 batting average, AL-best 94 hits, 16 homers) have led the way for Tampa Bay all season, but Mallex Smith has added a spark and brings a 12-game hitting streak into the series. The Orioles continue to struggle, as they’ve allowed at least five runs in 19 consecutive games after losing 6-3 to Cleveland at home on Thursday and are tied for last in the AL East. Manny Machado has provided a bright spot for Baltimore of late, going 9-for-22 with six extra-base hits – three homers – and eight RBIs over his last six contests. The Orioles make their first trip of the year to Tampa Bay after taking two of three from the Rays at home in April and going 13-6 in the 2016 season series.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles RH Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 6.25 ERA) vs. RH Chris Archer (5-4, 3.75)
Jimenez notched his second victory of the season last time out against St. Louis, allowing two solo homers among four hits over seven innings. The 33-year-old Dominican made three relief appearances before his last start, yielding six runs over 7 2/3 frames. Morrison is 5-for-9 with a homer versus Jimenez, who escaped without a decision against the Rays on April 24 despite giving up three runs over 3 1/3 innings.
Archer recorded the win last time out as Tampa Bay rallied after he permitted two runs and six hits over six innings while fanning eight to give him 85 strikeouts in his last nine outings. The 28-year-old North Carolina native has registered seven quality starts in 10 turns since allowing five runs over 6 2/3 frames in a loss to Baltimore on April 24. Jonathan Schoop and Chris Davis both have homered three times against Archer, who is 3-7 with a 4.69 ERA versus the Orioles.
1. Tampa Bay INF Trevor Plouffe has hit safely in three straight games since being acquired from Oakland and homered on Wednesday.
2. Baltimore RHP Darren O’Day (shoulder) is expected to be activated from the disabled list before Friday’s game.
3. Rays 3B Evan Longoria, who is batting .249 overall, was rested Wednesday and is just 2-for-17 in his last five contests.
PREDICTION: Rays 6, Orioles 3