Opposite dugout: Rays' bats helping to compensate for pitching injuries

rays-logo.jpgManager: Joe Maddon, ninth year
Record: 15-17
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 3B Evan Longoria (.276/.333/.409, 3 HR, 17 RBIs); CF Desmond Jennings (.294/.386/.505, 4 HR, 9 doubles, 6 SB, 10 RBIs); LHP David Price (3-2, 4.44 ERA, 55 K); LHP Cesar Ramos (1-1, 2.91 ERA)
Season series vs. O's: 0-2, 1 run scored, 10 runs allowed

Pitching probables
May 6: Chris Archer vs. Chris Tillman, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD
May 7: Cesar Ramos vs. Bud Norris, 7 p.m., MASN HD
May 8: David Price vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 7 p.m., MASN HD

Series breakdown
Three weeks after the Rays first faced the Orioles, they're still trying to find their way following major pitching injuries.

Matt Moore is done for the season, Alex Cobb is fighting a strained oblique and Jeremy Hellickson has yet to pitch for Tampa Bay in 2014 coming off elbow surgery. With that being the case, the usually stifling Rays pitching staff ranks 24th in the majors with a 4.32 ERA.

It could be worse, especially since ace David Price has a little to do with that figure because of two rough starts in three outings before bouncing back to hold the Yankees to two runs in seven frames his last time out. Price takes the mound in Thursday's series finale against Ubaldo Jimenez for a duel between two pitchers expected to be anchors for their respective staffs before the season is said and done.

Right-hander Chris Archer opens the series against Orioles ace Chris Tillman. Archer has struggled since recording quality starts in each of his first two games, pitching to a 6.85 ERA over his last four starts.

Left-hander Cesar Ramos has helped the Rays stay afloat with so many members of the rotation hurt, posting a 1.23 ERA over his last three starts (two earned runs in 14 2/3 innings). He pitches against Bud Norris on Wednesday.

The Rays staff has been a very all-or-nothing group, allowing more than five runs 14 times in the last 20 games while holding opponents to three or fewer in each of the other six.

They enter the mid-week set having won four of five games because their offense has been on the rise. Tampa Bay might be tied for sixth in the American League in runs and seventh in average, but the team has been held to fewer than three runs just three times in the last 16 games.

Center fielder Desmond Jennings was named AL Player of the Week on Monday after leading the majors with 23 total bases last week. He hit .355 with three doubles, three homers, three RBIs, eight runs scored and three steals.

First baseman James Loney leads the Rays with a .330 average. Outfielder Wil Myers sets the pace with 18 RBIs and third baseman Evan Longoria is batting .276 with 17 RBIs.

Despite the injury-based pitching inconsistency, the last-place Rays remain 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles for first place in the AL East heading into a set that could jumble the early division standings once again.

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