Rays-Orioles Preview

The surging Tampa Bay Rays’ pursuit of a playoff berth wasn’t
slowed during the start of a lengthy road trip.

The Rays might move closer to the AL wild-card lead if
left-hander David Price can end his winless drought against the
Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay (82-64) trailed Boston by nine games in the wild-card
race on Sept. 2 but has cut that deficit to three by going 8-1 over
its last nine.

“There’s nothing to complain about right now,” manager Joe
Maddon said. “We’ve worked ourselves back into a good spot.”

The Rays earned most of those victories during a nine-game
homestand before beating the Orioles 5-2 in the first of 11
straight road contests Monday night. Ben Zobrist had three hits and
drove in three runs, and B.J. Upton set a team record by reaching
base in nine consecutive plate appearances.

“I just want to help this team whether it’s offensively or
defensively, and right now it happens to be on the offensive end,”
Upton said. “I feel good right now, and I’ll just try to feel good
as long as I can. The hits are just falling.”

Price (12-12, 3.40 ERA) will try to earn his first victory
against last-place Baltimore (58-88) this season. The left-hander
is 0-2 with a 4.95 ERA in three matchups after going 4-0 with a
1.95 ERA in his first five.

Price enters with a 1.64 ERA in his last six starts but has only
a 3-2 record to show for it.

He has 30 strikeouts in his last three outings and fanned 11
over seven innings against Baltimore on Sept. 2. Price lost 3-2 by
giving up all three runs in his final inning.

Price followed that outing by allowing two runs over six innings
Wednesday against AL West-leading Texas, but he did not get a
decision in a 5-4 victory.

“He was out there competing. That’s what he does,” Rangers
manager Ron Washington told the Rays’ official website. “We have to
give him credit; he kept his team in the ballgame.”

Tampa Bay will try to help Price with another successful
performance against Alfredo Simon (4-8, 4.83).

The Rays scored six runs in five innings against the
right-hander in a 6-3 home win Sept. 3. Simon didn’t make it past
the fourth inning Thursday against New York while giving up four
runs and a career-worst six walks in his team’s 5-4 comeback
victory in 10 innings.

“Obviously, Simon was having a problem with the strike zone,”
manager Buck Showalter said. “It seemed like command was an
issue.”

Simon, 1-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his last seven starts, will make
his first home start against the Rays since Sept. 23, 2008, and
will try to hand them only their second loss in eight games this
season at Camden Yards.