ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Jason Hammel takes the mound tonight at Tropicana Field for the first time since being ejected Saturday afternoon following back-to-back-to-back home runs by the Tigers and a slider that hit Matt Tuiasosopo on the left shoulder.
Hammel insisted that he wasn't aiming at Tuiasosopo, and he presented a strong argument just a few inches from the face of plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. You know who won that argument.
In 32 games at The Trop, Hammel is 1-5 with a 5.78 ERA. He's 1-1 with a 6.91 ERA in three career starts against the Rays.
Hammel is searching for his eighth win tonight in 11 decisions. He'd also like to deflate a 5.43 ERA.
James Loney is 10-for-33 with two doubles, three homers and nine RBIs against Hammel. Kelly Johnson is 8-for-24 with a double, two homers and six RBIs. Ben Zobrist is 4-for-7 with a home run.
The Orioles are a combined 1-for-7 against Chris Archer, who's making his second start tonight for the Rays. Manny Machado owns the one hit, a walk-off single in the 14th inning on Sept. 13, 2012 at Camden Yards that produced the Orioles' 81st victory and guaranteed no worse than a .500 record, ending a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
Archer made his first start Saturday against the Indians and allowed five earned runs and seven hits, including two home runs, over four innings. Tonight marks his home debut in 2013.
He may want to pitch carefully to shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Hardy batted .191 in the first 30 games of the season. He's batting .339 over the last 30 and has 11 hits in his last 19 at-bats, with two doubles and three home runs.
Ryan Flaherty is 7-for-23 since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk. He's hit in five of the seven games.
Note: In the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Orioles used the 98th overall pick to select left-hander Stephen Tarpley of Scottsdale (Az.) Community College.
The Indians drafted Tarpley in the eighth round in 2011. He transferred from USC to Scottsdale, making him eligible for this year's draft.
Here's what MLB.com's draft tracker says about Tarpley:
"An eighth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2011, Tarpley initially went to Southern California to start his college career. After one season there, he transferred to Scottsdale Community College, thus making him eligible for this year's Draft. The strong and athletic lefty can crank the fastball up to 94 mph with easy effort. Both his curve and slider can be at least average, if not better. His changeup is behind the breaking stuff, but should also be a Major League average pitch for him. Tarpley can throw strikes and has terrific mound presence. It's a combination, especially from the left side, that will intrigue many teams on Draft day, with an upside as a future member of a big league rotation."
Steve Melewski will handle most of the draft load while I'm at Tropicana Field, so be sure to check his blog on MASNsports.com.
Another draft note: In the fourth round, the Orioles selected switch-hitting catcher Johan Heim from Amherst (N.Y.) High School.
Heim, listed at 6 foot 3 and 189 pounds, has committed to Michigan State.
Here's the draft tracker scouting report:
"The Buffalo area isn't a hotbed of baseball talent, but Heim is the second premium catching prospect in two years area scouts have had to evaluate. At 6-foot-3, 189 pounds, Heim is large for a catcher, but he has plenty of upside. Despite his size, he has good pop times and is fairly agile behind the plate. Heim has a strong arm and, in time, has the potential to be at least an average defender. There are more questions surrounding his offensive ability, but he has some raw power and has a good approach at the plate. Heim is committed to Michigan State."