BALTIMORE — The song remains the same for the Baltimore Orioles heading into the final contest of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
Simply put, the Orioles need to keep winning as they're in the midst of a battle for the American League East title and/or a wild-card berth. Even though Tampa Bay is out of the playoff picture, the Rays have not been making things easy for the Orioles or any of the other contenders they've faced.
The Orioles have lost two of the first three in this series, and the spotlight and pressure remains on Baltimore. The Orioles are three games behind the Red Sox in the East after Saturday's 5-2 loss and are tied with Toronto at the top of the wild-card race, three games clear of Detroit, Houston and Seattle.
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“At this point in time of the year you need every W you can get,” Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said. “I think we have 14 left and at this point you can't give games away.”
Wade Miley starts for the Orioles on Sunday, and he's struggled since the team acquired him from Seattle at the trade deadline. The left-hander is 1-5 with an 8.41 ERA in eight starts since coming to Baltimore, and the Orioles need more from him.
Tampa Bay sends right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.81) to the mound. He's been solid in the second half, going 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA since the All-Star Game, and is the kind of pitcher that gives Baltimore trouble at times.
Baltimore's been battling a number of injury problems lately. Mark Trumbo missed the first two games because of back spasms but the Orioles are hoping he'll be back Sunday, and set-up man Darren O'Day could return from the disabled list by Monday when the Orioles start a big four-game series with Boston.
The Rays (64-84) are a very young team that's already been eliminated from the playoffs and will finish with a losing record.
Still, they've got a number of games against good teams late in the season. They have played 29 consecutive games against teams better than .500 and within four games of a playoff spot and posted a 14-15 record.
Even though they're out of it, Evan Longoria still sees playing games like this late in the season as a learning tool for the young Rays.
“I think whether you're the team that needs to win to get to the playoffs or you're the team that's just playing the team that needs to win, everybody feels the same sort of anxiety and especially when the games are close,” Longoria said. “We can definitely use that as a growing moment.”
Said manager Kevin Cash: “They've played really good baseball in the environments we anticipated that we were going to be coming into. Couldn't be more pleased with them.”