Rays-Orioles Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays’ playoff push took a slight hit with the team
losing for the first time in six games.

Facing the major league leader in losses could help Joe Maddon’s
team rebound.

In Wednesday night’s series finale against Baltimore, the Rays
look to win for the ninth time in 11 games while Orioles
right-hander Jeremy Guthrie tries to avoid becoming the majors’
first 18-game loser in four years.

With Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Orioles, Tampa Bay (82-65)
dropped a game in the standings, falling four back of AL wild
card-leading Boston. The Rays, who were eight games behind the Red
Sox last Tuesday, had their five-game winning streak snapped.

“Realistically, we’re not going to win the rest of our games,”
Maddon said. “Hopefully, we just lose a couple.”

Maddon’s club may have a good chance of avoiding a loss in the
finale based on the pitching matchup.

The Rays have won seven of the last eight starts by Wade Davis
(10-8, 4.36 ERA), while Guthrie (7-17, 4.29) is on the brink of
becoming the first MLB pitcher to lose 18 games in a season since
Daniel Cabrera did it for the Orioles in 2007.

Davis is coming off his second career complete game, giving up
six hits while striking out eight and walking none in a 7-2 win
over Boston on Friday. The right-hander introduced a cutter in
shutting down one of the majors’ top offenses.

“It’s actually the first time I’ve really started throwing a
cutter,” he said. “I’ve always thrown a slider and we just
flattened it out a little bit to stay in the strike zone more. It
ended up being pretty effective.”

Prior to that gem, Davis permitted three runs and five hits in 6
2-3 innings of a 6-3 win over Baltimore (59-88) on Sept. 3. He is
3-2 with a 5.52 ERA in five starts against the Orioles this year,
and 4-0 with a 3.27 ERA in five career outings in Baltimore.

Guthrie faced Tampa Bay on Sept. 4 and was tagged for seven runs
– three earned – and seven hits in five innings of an 8-1 loss,
falling to 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his last four starts versus the
Rays.

Guthrie, who also lost 17 games in 2009, regrouped Friday
against Toronto, giving up three hits and three walks in seven
innings of a 2-0 win.

“You can’t ever lose a game if you give up zero runs,” he said.
“That’s the ultimate job a pitcher can do.”

Guthrie will have to be careful pitching to Evan Longoria, who
is 7 for 13 with a homer and three doubles against him this season.
Longoria hit his 26th homer Tuesday and is batting .309 with three
home runs, seven doubles and 15 RBIs in 14 games versus the Orioles
since the start of May.

Baltimore’s Matt Wieters hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the
eighth inning Tuesday to help his club snap a three-game skid and
put a dent in Tampa Bay’s postseason dreams.

“We’re playing some teams at the end of the year that are
playing for important parts in the playoffs,” Wieters said. “So
they’re going to bring their A game, and anytime you can go out
there and get a win, it’s going to help your confidence going into
next year.”

Wieters, 7 for 18 lifetime against Davis, has homered in each of
the first two games of this series and is batting .400 in his last
10 contests against the Rays.