Opposite dugout: Rays aim to hold off O’s and Jays for third place in AL East

rays-logo.jpgManager: Kevin Cash (2nd year)

Record: 77-82

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: LF Corey Dickerson (.278/.321/.488 with 27 HR, 62 RBIs), 3B Evan Longoria (.260 with 19 HR, 83 RBIs), 1B Logan Morrison (37 HR, 83 RBIs), RF Steven Souza Jr. (30 HR, 78 RBIs), RHP Chris Archer (9-12, 4.18 ERA), RHP Alex Colomé (3.15 ERA with 46 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 8-8

Pitching probables:

Sept. 29: LHP Wade Miley vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi, 7:10 p.m., MASN2
Sept. 30: RHP Miguel Castro vs. RHP Chris Archer, 6:10 p.m., MASN2
Oct. 1: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. LHP Blake Snell, 3:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Rays:

If you’re an Orioles or Rays fan, soak up as much baseball as you can this weekend because you won’t see your teams partake in any more baseball activities until February. It is known that both of these clubs have had disappointing seasons. The Birds were hoping to get back to the playoffs and the Rays were hoping to stay competitive throughout the season. Though both teams were at least technically still in the postseason hunt throughout September, everyone pretty much knew that they were going to fall short of playing in October.

Alas, a new objective has emerged this weekend to make these three games at The Trop not completely meaningless. While both teams will finish the season under .500, third place in the American League East is still up for grabs. Now I know this is not the goal the O’s and Rays had in mind at the beginning of the season, but make no mistake, there is a certain level of pride to be had in the season’s last series. The Rays enter the weekend a game and a half ahead of both the Orioles and the Blue Jays in the division. Third place isn’t great, but it’s better than a fourth- or last-place finish.

While the Rays don’t hit for average too well, left fielder Corey Dickerson, third baseman Evan Longoria, first baseman Logan Morrison and right fielder Steven Souza Jr. will try to mash Tampa Bay to a third-place finish. Dickerson has the best average of the four power bats, posting a .278/.321/.488 clip with 27 home runs and 62 RBIs. Longoria’s .260 average, 19 longballs and 83 RBIs are nothing to brag about, but he does lead the team with 35 doubles. Morrison’s 37 homers rank eighth in the AL and his 83 RBIs are tied with Longoria for the team lead, but he’s only hitting for a .242 average. Souza has reached the 30-homer mark for the first time in his young career and leads the team with 80 walks, but is only batting .241.

Jake Odorizzi makes his last start of the season when he gets the ball Friday night. The right-hander is 10-8 on the year, but his 4.26 ERA is the highest it’s been for a season since he started two games as a rookie for the Royals in 2012. His last start came against the Orioles in Baltimore, when he gave up one unearned run over six three-hit innings while striking out nine in a victory. Chris Archer takes the mound for the 6:10 p.m. start on Saturday. The righty’s 9-12 record is actually an improvement from last year, when he finished 9-19, but his ERA, too, is the worst it’s been since 2012 at 4.18. The Orioles got him for six runs (five earned) on eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings last week at Camden Yards. And finally, Blake Snell will make the last start of the season for the Rays on Sunday, as all of the final regular season major league games start a little after 3 p.m. EDT. The left-hander brings a 4-7 record and 4.27 ERA to the mound, and while he did not face the Orioles last week, he is 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two career starts against the Birds.

Rays closer Alex Colomé still leads the majors with 46 saves and has converted 17 out of his last 18 opportunities. So if the Orioles trail heading into the ninth of any game this weekend, it seems it will be hard to overtake third place.

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