Rays-Orioles Preview

The Baltimore Orioles have closed within 1 1/2 games of first place in the AL East.

Another matchup with the last-place Tampa Bay Rays seems the best way for them to make up even more ground.

Baltimore looks to move a season high-tying six games over .500 and tack on another win against the Rays on Saturday at Camden Yards.

After they were held to three hits in a 5-2 loss in the opener of Friday’s doubleheader, the Orioles got a tiebreaking homer from Nick Hundley in the sixth inning and Nelson Cruz tied for the major league lead with his 25th in a 4-1 victory over the Rays in the nightcap.

That gave Baltimore (42-37) 14 home runs in the last seven games and 38 this month, the most in baseball. The long ball has been a necessity for the Orioles, who are 9 for 56 (.161) with runners in scoring position in that seven-game span.

"We have a lot of power on this team, a lot of guys who can hit it out anywhere on the field. That’s why this lineup is so dangerous," Hundley said. "When you have a team, a lineup, with this much depth and this much power to all fields, it makes it tough to pitch to."

The power surge has helped Baltimore win 15 of 25 in June and close the gap on division-leading Toronto.

A win Saturday would put the Orioles six games over .500 for the first time since they were 20-14 on May 10. It would also make them 9-2 this season against the Rays, a vast improvement over last year’s 6-13 mark.

James Loney’s second-inning homer accounted for all of Tampa Bay’s offense in the second game. The Rays (33-49) have lost 12 of 15 on the road, averaging 2.5 runs and batting .226 during that span.

"They outpitched us in the second game, but we actually pitched well tonight," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Nevertheless, you will always take a split in a day-night doubleheader, but after you win the first one you get a little greedy."

Tampa Bay has totaled 24 runs against the Orioles this season.

Wei-Yin Chen (7-2, 3.84 ERA) has been partly responsible for that lack of offense, limiting the Rays to four runs over 13 innings in two starts this season. He’s 1-0 in those outings and 3-3 lifetime in 10 starts against Tampa Bay with a 2.98 ERA.

The left-hander failed to win his career-best fifth straight decision Monday, yielding three runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings before Baltimore rallied for a 6-4 victory over the White Sox. Since losing at Minnesota on May 3, Chen is 4-0 with a 3.60 ERA in nine starts and has walked only six while striking out 35 during that span.

Ben Zobrist is one of the few Rays to experience success against Chen, going 10 for 28 with a homer.

Erik Bedard (3-5, 4.25) seeks his first win against the Orioles in over five years. The left-hander, who spent his first five seasons in Baltimore, is 0-2 with a 7.61 ERA in six starts against his former team since beating them on June 2, 2009, with Seattle.

He again struggled against the Orioles on June 17, allowing five runs and five hits over four innings in a 7-5 loss.

The big blow in that game was a third-inning grand slam by Chris Davis, who is 4 for 10 off Bedard. Adam Jones, batting .343 in June after a four-hit game in the nightcap, is 6 for 13 against him.

Bedard didn’t receive a decision in his last start, giving up two runs and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings Sunday in a 5-2 win over Houston.