Preview: Rays kick off season’s final road trip in Baltimore
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
BALTIMORE — Their playoff hopes all but vanished, the Baltimore Orioles open their final home series of the season on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baltimore (73-80) is jockeying for a fourth-place finish in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays (71-81).
The Rays (74-78) are in a slightly better position but still face an uphill battle as they are four games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second AL wild card.
The Orioles looked as if they were capable of making a playoff push before losing 12 of their past 14 games, leaving them 5 1/2 behind Minnesota. Baltimore is coming off a deflating series against the Red Sox in which it was swept by the AL East leaders.
The Orioles are getting some solid pitching but are struggling to score runs.
“They’re very frustrated right now,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That’s been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them.”
The Orioles are trying to avoid their first losing season since 2011. Baltimore is also dealing with a pair of significant omissions on its roster.
Third baseman Manny Machado was out of the lineup Wednesday due to an illness, and the timeline for his return is uncertain. Also, left-hander closer Zach Britton might not pitch again this season because of a lingering problems with his left knee.
Tampa Bay is coming off an emotional series against the Chicago Cubs and Joe Maddon, who managed the Rays from 2006-14 and led them to four playoff appearances, including their only AL pennant. Tampa Bay split the two-game series, ending the Cubs’ seven-game winning streak Wednesday.
The Rays still believe they can make a late run to the playoffs.
“I feel all of us still think there’s a shot,” said left-hander Blake Snell, who got the victory Wednesday against the Cubs. “We all want to do it. We’re all in this together. We always felt there was a shot from the start and all the way to the end.”
Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Andriese (5-3, 4.44 ERA) is slated to start the opener at Camden Yards. He has not pitched past the sixth inning since returning from the disabled list Aug. 28 after recovering from a right hip stress reaction.
Andriese was 5-1 with a 3.54 ERA in 12 starts prior to going on the DL. In his latest outing, Friday against the Red Sox, he allowed two runs and five hits over 4 1/3 innings. Andriese has struggled in six career appearances (three starts) against the Orioles, going 1-3 with a 7.50 ERA, though he hasn’t faced them this year.
Baltimore will get another look Thursday at 24-year-old right-hander Gabriel Ynoa (1-2, 4.18 ERA). He was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Sept. 3. Even though Ynoa has lost his past two decisions, he has shown solid command in his brief time in the majors, earning himself another start.
In his Friday road outing against the New York Yankees, Ynoa allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits with five strikeouts and two walks over 4 1/3 innings.
“Every time the manager gives me the ball, I want to take advantage of the opportunity and show that I can pitch now and that I can pitch in the future, as well,” Ynoa said through an interpreter.