Friday, June 2, 2023
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MLB Preview: Tampa Bay Rays (29-8) at Baltimore Orioles (23-13)


BIRDLAND BLUES — The Rays stranded nine baserunners and were held hitless with runners in scoring position (0-for-7) in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss at Oriole Park…SS Wander Franco (2-for-5, HR, RBI, R, SB) clubbed his seventh homer of the season in the opening frame, but Baltimore jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning…2B Taylor Walls (1-for-3, HR, RBI, R, BB) cut the deficit to 4-2 with a solo shot in the fifth, but the Rays were held scoreless the rest of the way.

Making his first career start at Camden Yards, RHP Zach Eflin (6.0IP, 7H, 4ER, BB, 4SO) took his first loss of 2023, allowing a season-high four runs…marked his first loss since 6/19/22 at Washington as a member of Philadelphia.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS—Earlier today, the Rays announced that LHP Jake Diekman has been signed to a major league deal…in a corresponding move, RHP Chase Anderson was designated for assignment.

Diekman, 36, is in his 12th major league season…has gone 25-30 with a 4.96 ERA over 612 career appearances…pitched in 13 games for Chicago-AL this season.

ELITE COMPANY — The Rays are one of 10 teams since 1901 to win 29 of their first 37 games, including the first since the 1984 Detroit Tigers (32-5)…only the 1984 Tigers, 1939 New York Yankees (30-7), 1928 Yankees (30-7) and 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (30-7) have better 37-game starts since 1901…with a win tonight, Tampa Bay will become the sixth club since 1901 to win 30 of its first 38 games, including the first since the 1984 Tigers (33-5).

THE BAY BOMBERS — The Rays have hit a major league-best 75 home runs, the second-most long balls through a club’s first 37 games in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals (79HR)…the 2000 Cardinals also hold the record for most homers through 38 games (81HR), followed by the 1999 Seattle Mariners (76HR).

Tampa Bay has out-homered opponents, 75-24 (+51)…its 24 homers allowed are tied with Seattle for the fewest in the majors.

The Rays have an MLB-best 22 multi-homer games, ahead of Los Angeles-NL (18G) — its 19-3 (.864) mark when hitting 2+ homers is the third-best such record in the majors behind Pittsburgh (1.000, 13-0) and Atlanta (.929, 13-1)…last season, the Rays 34 multi-homer games were tied for fifth-fewest in the majors.

Tampa Bay’s 20 go-ahead home runs pace the AL, trailing only Los Angeles-NL (21HR) in all of MLB…56 of the Rays 75 total homers have been solo shots.

The Rays homered in each of their first 22 games, the longest streak to open a season in MLB history…marked the longest home run streak at any point in a single season since the 2019 Houston Astros (25G, 9/1-29, 2019)…Tampa Bay has gone deep in 33 of its 37 games overall in 2023.

THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM—The Rays have five players with 20+ RBI, tied with Texas and Baltimore for most in the majors…three qualified Tampa Bay hitters are batting .300 or better, tied with Toronto for the MLB lead (Randy Arozarena – .321, Yandy Díaz – .320, Wander Franco – .310)…nine Rays have hit 6+ homers, most in the majors, ahead of Atlanta (6 players)…Tampa Bay is also the only major league club with 10 players who have recorded 10+ extra-base hits (2nd: LAD, 8 players).

CONSISTENCY IS KEY—Randy Arozarena is riding a 20-game on-base streak dating back to 4/17, slashing .342/.420/.632 (26-for-76) with two doubles, one triple, 6 HR and 13 RBI in that span…it marks the longest on-base streak of his career, ahead of a 19-game run from 7/23-8/20, 2021…no Ray has had a longer streak since Wander Franco’s 43-game run from 7/25-9/29, 2021.

Arozarena’s 20-game on-base streak is the third-longest active run in the majors behind HOU Yordan Alvarez (34G) and COL Jurickson Profar (21G).

SETTING THE TONE — Yandy Díaz has reached base safely in 18 of his last 19 games, going .382/.481/.647 (26-for-68) at the plate with three doubles, 5 HR, 10 RBI and 12 walks in that span…during that stretch (since 4/18), Díaz ranks among qualified major leaguers in batting average (1st), OBP (1st), OPS (2nd, 1.128) and SLG (5th).

Díaz leads all qualified AL lead-off hitters in average (.320), OBP (.432), SLG (.582), OPS (1.014), walks (22), homers (9) and total bases (71).

ROAD DOG — Josh Lowe has reached base safely in 17 consecutive road games dating back to 7/24/22, producing a .362/.422/.672 (21-for-59) clip with three doubles, 5 HR and 11 RBI in those games…it ties DET Akil Baddoo (9/23/22-pres.) for the second-longest active such streak in the majors, trailing only TOR Kevin Kiermaier (31G, 6/11/22-pres.)… no Rays hitter has a longer road on-base streak since Yandy Díaz (19G) from 7/27/22 – 9/13/22 (G1).

LEADING THE PACK — The Rays pace the majors in runs scored (230) while surrendering the fewest runs (114)…Tampa Bay’s +116 run differential is tied with the 1912 New York Giants for the fourth-best mark through the first 37 games of a season in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (+122), 1939 New York Yankees (+121) and 1905 New York Giants (+118)…the 1902 Pirates also hold the record through 36 games (+122).

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD — Of the Rays 29 games during May, 26 are against clubs that have a .500 or better record…Tampa Bay is 12-6 (.667) against teams that currently have a .500 or better record, the best winning pct. in MLB, ahead of Milwaukee (11-7, .611).

ON THE MOUND — Tampa Bay’s 2.97 ERA is the best mark in the majors, ahead of Houston (3.34)…this includes the best starter ERA (2.93) and the third-best bullpen ERA (3.01)…Rays pitchers pace the majors in opponents’ OPS (.618), opponents’ average (.210), hits per 9.0IP (6.94), HR per 9.0 IP (0.65), fewest pitches per IP (15.65) and WHIP (1.13).

IN THE BOX — Rays hitters lead MLB in OPS (.865), OBP (.348), SLG (.517), batting average (.274), extra-base hits (150), total bases (648) and home runs per game (2.03).

BATTLE FOR THE EAST — Tampa Bay and Baltimore meet for the rubber match of a three-game series tonight at Oriole Park, the third matchup in a 13-game season series… the Rays have won six consecutive season series over the Orioles since 2017, the longest streak over Baltimore in club history…Tampa Bay is 69-38 (.645) against BAL since 2017, its most wins over any opponent in that stretch, ahead of Toronto (63).

Following a club-record 15-game winning streak over the Orioles from 7/20/21 – 4/10/22, the Rays are 8-10 in their last 18 games against Baltimore, including a 4-8 mark on the road in that span…a win today would secure Tampa Bay’s first series victory at Baltimore since a three-game sweep from 8/27-29, 2021.

FIRST THINGS FIRST — LHP Jalen Beeks will serve as tonight’s opener… in two starts this season, he has pitched to a 1.80 ERA (5.0IP, 1ER) with three strikeouts and two walks…in his last start on 4/17 at Cincinnati, he threw 3.0 innings of one-run ball.

In 13 career starts, Beeks is 0-4 with a 6.88 ERA (34.0IP, 26ER) and 33 strikeouts against 16 walks…in 101 career relief appearances, he is 15-6 and has pitched to a 3.85 ERA (217.1IP, 93ER) with four saves.

BLOCK OUT THE BIRDS — Beeks has pitched to a 7.01 ERA (25.2IP, 20ER) in 10 career appearances (1 start) against the Orioles…in his lone start on 5/20/22, Beeks threw 2.0 scoreless innings…in his first two career games at Camden Yards, he gave up a combined 15 runs on 22 hits over 8.1 innings – in three outings since, has allowed one run over 4.1 innings of work.

LAST TIME OUT — Chirinos did not factor into the decision on 5/5 vs. New York-AL after working a season-high 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on three hits with four walks and no strikeouts…the four walks matched a career high (also 6/28/19 vs. TEX).

He is the first Rays starter to pitch 5+ innings without recording a strikeout since Alex Cobb on 4/16/17 at Boston (5.0IP, 11H, 4ER, 1BB).


BACK IN THE WIN COLUMN: The Orioles defeated the Rays last night at Oriole Park, 4-2, to even the series at a game apiece…Snapped their three-game losing streak…Recorded their 13th comeback win of the season; entering today’s games, their 13 comeback wins rank second in MLB behind the Boston Red Sox with 14 such victories.

The O’s turned four double plays last night, their most since rolling five on May 4, 2022 vs. Minnesota; their 41 total double plays lead the majors (see box at right).

Félix Bautista recorded his eighth save of the season, tied for fourth in the AL and sixth in MLB; was his first four-out save of the year and first of more than 1.0 inning since he registered a 2.0-inning save on September 6, 2022 vs. Toronto.

Yennier Cano surrendered just his third hit of the season with two outs in the eighth inning; owns a 0.17 WHIP and a .057 opponent average (3-for-53).

Adley Rutschman snapped an 0-for-his-last-19 stretch with a 407-foot, two-run homer onto Eutaw Street in the third inning, the first Eutaw Street home run by an Oriole since Anthony Santander hit one on September 5, 2022 (G1) vs. Toronto; marked Rutschman’s first career Eutaw Street home run, the 119th in ballpark history, 56th by an Oriole, and the second this season (BOS’ Devers on 4/24); the 111.1 mph blast was the hardest-hit ball of his career.

BURNING RUBBER: The O’s and Rays square off in a rubber game in tonight’s series finale…The Birds have gone 3-3 in rubber matches this season after going 11-11 in such games in 2022…The Orioles are seeking their second series win against an AL East opponent after taking two out of three against the Red Sox from April 24-26.

FEELS GOOD TO BE HOME: The Orioles are in the middle of their longest homestand of the season and will wrap up a three-game set against Tampa Bay tonight…The O’s have a scheduled off day tomorrow before taking on the Pirates for three games this weekend…They will then host the Angels for four games beginning Monday to conclude the 10-game, 11-day homestand.

WHAT’S TRENDING: The O’s have won 15 of their last 21 games, 17 of their last 24, and 19 of their last 27…The 23-13 overall record is the third-best in MLB to start the season (see box at right).

Last season, the Birds did not reach 23 wins until the 55th game on June 4 (23-32); they did not reach 24 wins until the 57th game on June 7 (24-33).

The Orioles are 71-50 since July 1, 2022, a 95-win pace; the .587 winning percentage during that time is the fourth-best in the AL and sixth-best in MLB entering today’s games, trailing the Dodgers (.694, 86-38), Braves (.678, 82-39), Astros (.618, 76-47), Rays (.605, 75-49), and Mariners (.592, 71-49).

AGAINST THE RAYS: This week’s three-game set marks the first meeting of the year between the Orioles and Rays…The O’s will travel to Tampa Bay for two games from June 20-21 and four games from July 20-23 before hosting the Rays for four games from September 14-17…The O’s went 9-10 against Tampa Bay last year, 7-3 at Oriole Park and 2-7 at Tropicana Field…The season series was not decided until the 19th and final game on August 14 in Tampa Bay.

ON THE ATTACK: Baltimore ranks fifth in the AL and seventh in MLB with 190 runs scored after finishing 10th in the AL and 20th in MLB with 674 runs in 2022…The Birds lead AL teams with 142 walks.

SOLID CONTACT: Entering play today, the Orioles ranked fifth in the AL and seventh in MLB with an 89.8 mph average exit velocity, per Statcast.

Ryan Mountcastle ranks tied for second in MLB with 20 Barrels, seventh with a 12.3 Barrels/PA percentage, ninth with 58 Hard-Hit Balls, and tied for 14th with a 93.2 mph average exit velocity.

WHAT A RELIEF: The Baltimore bullpen owns a 3.12 ERA (48 ER/138.1 IP), the fourth-best in MLB through yesterday’s contests…Baltimore’s 2.50 ERA (16 ER/57.2 IP) at home ranked as the second-best in the majors entering today’s games…The Orioles lead MLB with 161 strikeouts from the ‘pen, and their 10.47 K/9 ranks fourth.

AY, TONE: Anthony Santander owns a season-long eight-game hitting streak since May 2; has slashed .412/.459/.765 (14-for-34) with three doubles, three home runs, seven runs scored, nine RBI, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch in that span…The streak is tied for the longest by an O’s batter this season; Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, and Adley Rutschman have also posted eight-game hitting streaks this year.

Six of his last 10 hits have gone for extra bases (3-2B, 3 HR).

Tied for the team lead with 10 multi-hit games (Hays, Mountcastle).

Recorded six straight multi-hit games from May 2-7, the longest such streak in MLB this season; became the first O’s batter with six consecutive multi-hit performances since José Iglesias, who had seven in a row from August 15 to September 2, 2020; since the start of last season, Santander is the eighth player in MLB with multiple hits in at least six consecutive games, and first since New York-NL’s Jeff McNeil did so in six in a row from September 27 to October 4 (G1), 2022.

QUICK HITS: Scheduled to make his eighth start of the season, fourth at home, and fifth career start against the Rays tonight…Made a career-high 22 appearances (21 GS) in 2022, 11 appearances at home (10 GS), and 11 on the road…Owned an 8-7 record with a 3.23 ERA (45 ER/125.1 IP) and 87 strikeouts… Made six starts of 5.0-or-more scoreless innings, tied for seventh-most in the AL…Acquired by the Orioles along with INF Breyvic Valera, OF Yusniel Díaz, RHP Zach Pop and INF Rylan Bannon in exchange for INF Manny Machado on July 18, 2018…Originally selected by the Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of UNLV.

LAST TIME OUT: Made his first career start against the Braves on May 5; earned the win after allowing one run on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work at Truist Park…Marked his second quality start of the season (also 4/18 at WSH)…Has won three of his last four starts since April 18… Threw 93 pitches, 55 strikes.

AGAINST TAMPA BAY: Making his fifth career start against the Rays…Owns an 0-1 record with a 4.00 ERA (8 ER/18.0 IP) through his first four career outings against the division rival…Did not factor into the decision in his last start against the Rays on July 16, 2022, his first career appearance at Tropicana Field…Allowed three runs on eight hits (1 HR) with a hit batter and two strikeouts in 4.0 innings…Threw 79 pitches, 52 strikes.

AGAINST THE AL EAST: Making his fourth start of the season and 26th career appearance (25th start) against the AL East…Has gone 1-0 with an 8.56 ERA (13 ER/13.2 IP) through his first three starts against the division this season… Earned the win in his last start against the AL East on April 24 vs. Boston, allowing four runs on seven hits (2 HR) with one walk and five strikeouts in 5.2 innings…Won consecutive starts for the first time in his career…Threw 87 pitches, 55 strikes…Sports a 3-11 record with a 5.93 ERA (78 ER/118.1 IP) in his first 25 career appearances (24 starts) against division foes.

HOME SWEET HOME: Has gone 1-0 with a 7.20 ERA (12 ER/15.0 IP) in three home starts this season…Earned the win in his last start at Oriole Park on April 24 vs. Boston…Owns a 5-7 record with a 4.51 ERA (60 ER/119.2 IP) and seven quality starts through his first 23 career home appearances (22 starts).

‘KREM’ OF THE CROP: Had his career-high scoreless streak snapped at 22.2 innings on July 4, 2022 vs. Texas…Marks the longest scoreless streak by an Orioles starter since Mike Mussina pitched 27.0 scoreless innings from September 21, 1995 to April 2, 1996…The last Orioles pitcher with a scoreless streak of at least 22.2 innings was Steve Johnson, who tossed 25.1 scoreless frames across eight games (three starts) from August 25 to September 29, 2012.

Mikey Balhan Sports

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