What kind of opponent will the Tampa Bay Rays see?
Will the Baltimore Orioles show the consistency that made them the class of the American League East after the All-Star break? Or will they continue a slide that saw them lose three consecutive games over the weekend to the hapless Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field?
Will the Orioles rebound and continue their winning ways against the Rays? Or will Tampa Bay prolong Baltimore’s strange slide?
The Orioles own a comfortable six-game lead in the AL East over the New York Yankees entering a four-game series with the Rays at Camden Yards. Still, strange happenings in the Windy City over the weekend make this question reasonable: Will Baltimore play sad or mad during the Rays’ visit?
Tampa Bay, for its part, escaped a wild three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays with two victories. The contests at Rogers Centre featured two 10-inning results, and the only game to be decided by more than one run was the Rays’ 8-0 series-opening victory Friday.
Recent history suggests the Orioles will find a way to kick their funk fast. Their three-game losing streak is the longest of their post-All-Star-break schedule, and they haven’t dropped four consecutive contests since a skid from May 27-30, when they lost two games apiece to the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros.
The Rays, now 35-30 on the road, will try to keep their positive vibe away from Tropicana Field alive and extend the Orioles’ pain.
Here’s a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Orioles series …
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): He hit .375 (6 for 16) with one RBI in six games from Aug. 19-24. He had two multi-hit games in the span, including going 3 for 5 with two doubles in a victory over the Blue Jays on Aug. 22. He has hit .275 with nine home runs and 30 RBI this season.
Adam Jones (Orioles): He hit .333 (8 for 24) with one home run and three RBI in six games from Aug. 18-24. He had three multi-hit games in the span, the highlight being when he went 3 for 4 with one home run and one RBI in a victory over the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 20. He has hit .286 with 24 home runs and 78 RBI this season.
Curt Casali (Rays): He hit .125 (2 for 16) with five strikeouts in six games from Aug. 19-24. He went without a hit in five games in the span. He has hit .169 with two RBI this season.
Chris Davis (Orioles): He hit .091 (2 for 22) with eight strikeouts in six games from Aug. 18-24. He was held without a hit in four contests in the span. He has hit .189 with 21 home runs and 60 RBI this season.
1: Career complete games for left-hander Drew Smyly, who earned his first when he allowed two hits and struck out four in 105 pitches in an 8-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday at Rogers Centre. He’s 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 23 strikeouts in four starts with the Rays since he was gained in a three-team trade July 31.
20: Games the Rays allowed three runs or fewer on the road before a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre. Jose Reyes’ RBI single to left field proved to be the difference.
2: Saves by Rays reliever Brad Boxberger, who earned his latest when he allowed two hits but no runs in the bottom of the 10th inning of the Rays’ 2-1 victory Sunday at Rogers Centre. He’s 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 88 strikeouts this season.
"He had everything going on. You could see from the beginning he was going to pitch well all night. It was just obvious." —Manager Joe Maddon, after the Rays’ victory Friday. Smyly retired his final 19 batters faced in the victory
"It was inappropriate for Bob to do what he did and permit that to happen. I’m trusting that they’re going to interpret the rule properly and get us back to that point in the game." —Maddon, when speaking about his decision to play Saturday’s game under protest. He disagreed with umpires’ decision to grant Toronto a replay challenge in the fourth inning when left-hander Mark Buehrle returned to the rubber before Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to challenge the call that Wil Myers reached on a one-out single
"It’s kind of easy to just give up in that situation and say, ‘They’re going to at least score one run, we’ll play for the tie’ Boxberger did a great job making this pitches right there. It’s good to come out on top of that one. Hopefully that’s some good momentum going into Baltimore." —Third baseman Evan Longoria, after the Rays’ victory Sunday. The Blue Jays had runners on first and third bases with no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning but were unable to score