Apparently, all it took for the Baltimore Orioles to get back in the win column and rediscover their offense was a return home.
A repeat of that promises to be far more difficult Tuesday night when they face red-hot Alex Cobb in the second of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baltimore’s weeklong trip to Chicago couldn’t have started any better, as they swept the White Sox in three straight to open a season-high nine-game lead in the AL East. However, the Orioles followed that with three consecutive losses to the Cubs over the weekend, scoring four total runs and batting .143 while striking out 26 times.
Their first three-game skid since late May cut their division lead to six games over the Yankees, but Baltimore (74-55) opened a stretch of 21 of 27 at home Monday with a 9-1 victory over Tampa Bay.
Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis hit consecutive homers during a six-run fifth for the Orioles, who also got back-to-back home runs in the third from Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce. Every starter had at least one hit for Baltimore, which improved to 16-5 at Camden Yards since June 30 after a 19-21 start there.
”It’s good because it seemed like y’all went in panic mode when we got swept in Chicago,” Young said. ”We weren’t scoring many runs, but it happens and then we’re back in our division at home facing a guy we’ve seen before, a team we play, we know their tendencies and everything.”
The Orioles have won five of six at home, averaging 8.3 runs while batting .346 with 19 home runs.
Another big offensive display seems unlikely with Cobb (9-6, 3.01 ERA) on the mound. He’s won seven consecutive decisions, posting a 1.99 ERA while striking out 63 over 63 1-3 innings during that 10-start stretch. Cobb has allowed two runs or fewer in a franchise-record eight successive starts.
The right-hander outdueled former teammate David Price in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Detroit, yielding two hits with two walks and six strikeouts in seven innings.
Cobb’s win streak began at Baltimore on June 29, when he allowed four runs and eight hits over five innings in a 12-7 victory. He was 3-1 with a 0.95 ERA in his previous four starts against the Orioles.
Even with Monday’s loss, the Rays (64-67) are a major league-best 21-7 on the road since June 28. They are the only team in baseball with a winning record away from home and a losing record overall.
”We just take this one and throw it in the trash and come back tomorrow,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Young, who began his career with the Rays in 2006, is 16 for 36 (.444) with three homers during an 11-game hitting streak against his former team.
Pearce also enjoys facing Tampa Bay, going 13 for 35 (.371) with four home runs and eight RBIs in the season series. He’s hit in a career best-tying eight straight overall, batting .343 with four homers.
Baltimore will have a hot pitcher of its own on the hill in Wei-Yin Chen (13-4, 3.76).
He turned in another strong performance Wednesday in a 4-3 victory over the White Sox, allowing three runs in 7 1-3 innings for his career-high 13th win. Chen has won six of seven decisions since the start of July, holding opponents to three runs or fewer in seven of those eight outings.
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last three home starts.
This will be the fourth time this season Chen faces the Rays, having gone 1-1 with a 4.96 ERA in the first three.