Preview: Rays rolling right along as series vs. Orioles continues

TV: FOX Sports Sun

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.


The Tampa Bay Rays keep winning.

The Baltimore Orioles keep losing.

After Blake Snell won his 18th of the season in Friday night’s 14-2 rout of the Orioles Friday night, Kevin Cash sends “opener” Diego Castillo to the mound in Saturday night’s second game of the three-game series at Tropicana Field.

The Rays, long shots in the American League wild-card chase, improved to 76-64, 23-11 since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Tampa Bay Rays on FOX Sports Sun

The Rays got a grand slam from Ji-Man Choi and the first major league home run from Nick Ciuffo to blast the Birds on Friday night.

Snell, 18-5 (tied for the major league lead in wins) with a 2.06 ERA, struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings. But a two-run homer by Joey Rickard in the sixth inning ended the left-hander’s streak of consecutive home starts allowing one or zero runs at 14, dating to last season.

“Blake was really good again,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Obviously, the runs are great to have, but I think Blake sets the tone, obviously, with the way that he’s been throwing the ball here. I was excited to have him open up this series and he definitely did his part.”

Asked about Snell pitching like an ace, Cash said, “He’s performed like one this year. It’s tough to argue that he hasn’t. It’s pretty remarkable the turnaround. We talk about it a lot, and I guess we’ll continue to talk about it. I guess when the day comes when we’re not talking about it, then it becomes a normal fifth day for him.

“If that’s the case, then he becomes a really special pitcher.”

The Rays hit four home runs. Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 15 and walked none in the game as the Orioles reached 100 losses for the first time since going 54-107 in 1988 and third time since moving from St. Louis after the 1953 season.

Ryan Yarbrough, a 13-game winner as both a starter and reliever, will handle the bulk of the innings Saturday. The Orioles will start rookie right-hander David Hess, although Hess almost didn’t make it.

Hess, who has three wins in 12 decisions this season, has two of them against the Rays, who are just 9-8 against the 41-100 Orioles.

Hess was hit in the eye with a football before Friday night’s game and had to visit an ophthalmologist before getting word he’s fine.

“Going out there and playing around, that’s just a part of being an athlete,” said Hess, who was seen later in the dugout wearing an LSU football helmet. “We want to go out and maybe toss around a football or a Frisbee or whatever. This is one of those times when a freak accident happens, so I guess next time I’ve got to move my head or catch the ball.”

He is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in four games (three starts) against the Rays. He is 1-9 with a 6.03 ERA against everyone else.

In three starts against the Rays, he has worked 18 1/3 innings, yielding six runs. His first two big league wins came May 12 and 25, both against Tampa Bay.

He also defeated the Rays on Aug. 9, his only victory in his last 12 starts, with relief appearances mixed in.

The current Tampa Bay roster is a combined 11-for-46 (.239) against Hess. Joey Wendle is 4-for-5 (.800) and Matt Duffy 4-for-9 (.444), and C.J. Cron is 1-for-9 (.111) and Mallex Smith 1-for-6 (.167).