Major League Baseball

Rays look for third straight as Orioles visit

mlb4ORIOLES (24-59) AT RAYS (48-36)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-SUN, MASN, MLB.TV

After finishing their first losing month in over a year, the Tampa Bay Rays take a little momentum into July and the start of a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Rays went 13-16 in June but won three of their final four games, capped by Sunday’s 6-2 win over the visiting Texas Rangers behind a 12-strikeout effort by reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. That gave Tampa Bay its first series victory since taking three of four at Boston on June 7-9.

Despite the recent rough stretch, the Rays still find themselves two games ahead of the Rangers for the top wild-card playoff spot in the AL. Tampa Bay, which is 12 games over .500, is also in second place in the AL East, seven games behind the New York Yankees, who visit Tropicana Field for four games later in the week.

“We talk about goals in the season, you want to win as many series as possible,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s really, really difficult to sweep series, but if you can keep yourself to where you’re in a position to win a series as many times as possible, you’re going to end up being a really good team. We think we’re a really good team, and we got back to doing that this weekend.”

The series win over the Rangers was even more impressive considering Texas had a six-game winning streak before being shut down by highly-touted rookie left-hander Brendan McKay, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning of an eventual 5-2 Rays win on Saturday. Snell followed that up with another gem on Sunday, allowing just three hits, including a long two-run homer by Joey Gallo, over six innings.

Cash was also happy to see his offense finally get back on track after dropping the series opener, 5-0, on Friday night, managing just three hits in the process. Yandy Diaz had three doubles and scored three times, Tommy Pham homered and Kevin Kiermaier went 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and two RBIs to lead the Rays in Sunday’s victory.

“Our offense … had been reeling a little bit,” Cash said. “The last two days, very encouraged by the length of at-bats. We’ve had a bunch of different people contribute the last two days, which is a good sign.”

Right-hander Ryne Stanek (0-1, 2.76 ERA) will make his 24th start as an opener for Tampa Bay on Monday night with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (7-3, 4.62) expected to get the bulk of the innings. Stanek is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 10 games and five career starts against the Orioles, who did not announce a starter following a 2-0 home loss to Cleveland on Sunday.

The likely starter appears to be righty Tom Eshelman, who has yet to make his major league debut. He’s gone 2-5 with a 4.46 ERA in 13 starts between the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season.

The Orioles, on pace to lose 115 games for a second consecutive season, come in off a rare series win of their own, including historic back-to-back 13-0 shutouts of the three-time defending AL Central champion Indians. Baltimore became the first team in major league history to win back-to-back games by shutout while also scoring 13 or more runs.

The Orioles had a chance for a series sweep on Sunday — which would have been the first of the season — when they loaded the bases in ninth. But Cleveland reliever Brad Hand struck out Anthony Santander to end the game.

“We did a great job off (Hand),” Hyde said. “Load the bases against an All-Star closer … and just came up a hit short.”

–Field Level Media

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