The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles meet in another September match up with a familiar feel to it. Last season the Orioles swept the Rays in Baltimore September 12th through 14th and were at Tropicana Field to close out the 2012 season as the Rays fell out of playoff contention after the Athletics defeated the Rangers in game 160.
This year the Rays are holding a wild card and it is the Orioles who are trying to gain ground with one last gasp. Chris Davis remains focused on the nine innings in front of him:
"I think we know what's going on with the Rays, and the fact that there's another Wild Card team out there makes things more interesting, This is definitely what they wanted when they threw in another Wild Card. But we just have to go out there every day and focus on the nine innings in front of us and that's helped us the last few days, just knowing we have to go out there and focus on nine innings." - MLB.com
David Price is the Rays ACE and good teams depend on their best players stepping up in times like these and Price does not shy away from his role:
"It's big. If they come in here and beat me up, that has them feeling good going against everybody else after me, If I can come out here and throw the way I expect to, it might put a little doubt in their mind and give us some confidence. That's what we need. We need a head of steam. It's the team that's playing the best at the end of the year and we still have enough time to get hot. We just need to continue to play better." - MLB.com
The Rays open the series tied with the Texas Rangers for the lead in the AL Wild Card. They hold a 0.5 game lead over the Cleveland Indians, a 2 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, a 3 game lead over the Kansas City Royals, and 3.5 games over the New York Yankees.
The Rays need one victory this weekend to capture the season series giving them a tie-breaker advantage with the Orioles. They also hold the tie breaker against the Indians but not against the Royals or Rangers. The Rays need one more win against the Yankees to take that season series as well.
The Rays need to take care of their own business but their will be plenty of scoreboard watching over the weekend and into Monday's series finale.
The Rangers travel to Kansas City to take on the Kansas City Royals before returning home Monday to kick off a 4-game series with the Houston Astros.
The Cleveland Indians will take on the Houston Astros in Cleveland over the weekend. The Indians will enjoy their final off day of the season on Monday.
The New York Yankees host the San Francisco Giants over the weekend and like the Indians will have their final off day of the season on Monday.
The best outcome for the Rays would be for the Royals to sweep the Rangers, the Indians to sweep the Astros, and the Giants to sweep the Yankees. Odds are against this scenario playing out but the most favorable outcome for the Rays would be to play the Cleveland Indians in the wild card playoff game.
Despite the second half success of Ubaldo Jimenez the Indians lack a true ace of the caliber of Yu Darvish or James Shields. Their lineup scored runs in bunches early in the season but have been marginal at best over the second half of the season and it does not include a Chris Davis or a Adam Jones.
The Rays and Indians meeting at Tropicana Field on October 3rd would be the best case scenario for the Rays.
Friday at 7:10 p.m. - Jason Hammel (7-8, 5.12 ERA) vs David Price (9-3, 3.42 ERA)
Hammel is returning from injury. He has only made two appearances in since July 28th. He worked 2-innings of relief against the Chicago White Sox on September 8th and made a start against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 13th. He worked 5 innings allowing 3R/ER on 3 hits striking out 2 and walking 1.
He has made 3 starts vs the Rays this season and is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA. The Rays have posted a slash line of .288/.324/.485 against him which includes 3 home runs.
***************GAME TIME CHANGE FOR SATURDAY******************
Saturday at 1:05 p.m. --- TBA vs Alex Cobb (9-3, 3.02 ERA)
Sunday - 1:40 p.m. - Scott Feldman (5-4, 3.51 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (11-9, 5.23 ERA)
Feldman has been one of the Orioles more impressive starters since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the end of June.
He has really been impressive over his last 5 starts posing a 2-1 record with a 1.60 ERA. He has worked 33.2 innings and allowed 7R/6ER on 19 hits striking out 23 and walking 14.
Monday - 3:10 p.m. - Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 4.03 ERA) vs Chris Archer (9-7, 3.03 ERA)
Chen has struggled his last 5 starts posting a record of 0-1 with a 7.60 ERA. He has only delivered 25.2 innings allowing 21R/ER on 36 hits striking out 32 and walking 10.
He has faced the Rays twice this year and is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA. The ERA may look good but the Rays have hit him well posting a slash line of .289/.333/.489 in the two starts.