Manager: Joe Maddon, ninth year
Last 10 games: 6-4
Who to watch: OF Matt Joyce (.355/.475/.613, 2 HR, 7 RBIs); 2B Ben Zobrist (.277/.382/.489, 3 HR, 6 RBIs); LHP David Price (2-0, 2.91 ERA, 21 2/3 IP, 22 K, 2 BB); RHP Grant Balfour (4 saves, 0.00 ERA, .071 BAA)
Season series vs. O’s (2013): 13-6, 104 runs scored, 86 runs allowed
The Rays take on the Orioles for the first time in 2014 looking much like the club that has finished among the American League East’s top three in each of the last six seasons.
The pieces might not all be the same, but the Rays are tied for the division lead two weeks into the season still owning one of the majors’ best pitching staffs and scoring just enough runs to win.
The Rays head to Baltimore ranked third in the AL with a 3.24 ERA while struggling offensively, tied for 11th in runs and standing 13th in batting average.
Tampa Bay will send two of its best starters thus far to face the Orioles over the next three days. Chris Archer pitches tonight after posting a 1.38 ERA over his first two outings.
And on Wednesday, fans will be treated to a stellar duel between David Price, who is off to a spectacular 2-0 start, and Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman. Price has struck out 22 while walking just two in 21 2/3 innings over three starts, pitching to a 2.91 ERA in the process. Tillman is 1-1 with a 0.84 ERA.
Even though the Rays are having trouble at the plate, Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist are doing enough to help compensate for a slow start by 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers. Joyce and Zobrist have combined for five homers and 13 RBIs.
With the AL East so tightly packed in the early going, this will be a key series for both teams, as the first-place Rays can put some distance between themselves and the 5-7 Orioles.