Over the first three meetings in their four-game series with Baltimore, the Tampa Bay Rays have done what they were supposed to do: Beat the last-place Orioles.
The American League East-leading Rays have done that job thoroughly — outscoring the division rival 27-6 over the trio of games — and will look to complete the series sweep in a matinee affair Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Rays’ 8-4 win Wednesday lifted them to 38-18 against the division and 14-1 against the Orioles. They have also scored at least eight runs in 10 of their last 12 games.
That last stat had manager Kevin Cash beaming after Wednesday’s comeback win.
His club trailed the visitors 2-0 after one-half inning then scored seven unanswered to take full control of the contest and win its eighth straight over the orange-and-black birds.
“Top to bottom, we’re putting a lot of pressure on opposing pitchers,” Cash said of his offense. “I kind of want to stay out of the way and keep them doing it.
“From the dugout, you can really appreciate the quality of at-bats — the way we can get behind in the at-bat and then get it to even or a full count. Even if we don’t get the big hit, sometimes we get the big walk.”
Shane McClanahan (7-4, 3.73 ERA) will take the ball for his 18th start and has carried the rotation by winning four of his past five decisions.
In two career appearances against Baltimore, the rookie left-hander is 2-0 win a 3.00 ERA. The fireballer has fanned 15 in 12 innings and held Orioles batters to a .200 average.
The Orioles have lost 14 straight games — matching the 14 they lost to close out May.
They became just the third team since 1901 and first since the 1935 Boston Braves to endure two losing streaks of at least 14 games in the same season.
However, help has arrived for Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde as Ryan Mountcastle is back in the lineup.
The first baseman was hurt after a tag to the helmet in the series opener Aug. 6 against the Rays in Baltimore, eventually landing him on the concussion injured list two days later.
In 103 games this season, the 2015 first-round draft pick (36th overall) from Winter Springs, Fla., is hitting .265 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs and a .794 OPS.
With Mountcastle coming off the IL Tuesday and the club in need of pitching depth, the Orioles optioned 24-year-old corner outfielder Ryan McKenna to Triple-A Norfolk.
“Excited to have Ryan back. He passed everything yesterday from the league and the union and our medical people,” Hyde said of Mountcastle, who homered Wednesday.
In the series finale, 28-year-old Jorge Lopez (3-13, 6.14) will try to improve on an extremely difficult season.
Over just 3 1/3 innings at Fenway Park Saturday, the righty allowed seven runs and nine hits in Baltimore’s 16-2 loss to Boston.
On the season, opposing batters are hitting .297 against him, and his 1.65 WHIP is higher than his career average of 1.55.
Lopez is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay in 2021. For his career, he owns an 0-3 mark and 4.37 ERA in five games (four starts), with Rays batters swinging at a .279 clip.
–Field Level Media