Orioles vs. Rays: Taking a look at the season series so far

After a day of rest, the Orioles begin a huge three-game series tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards. The Orioles open this series one game ahead of Tampa Bay in the AL East and also for a wild card berth.

Both teams are playing well. Tampa Bay has won six of its last eight and is 21-11 over its past 32 games. The Orioles have won 11 of 16 and are 23-11 over their last 34 games.

Since the All-Star break, the Orioles are 33-22 while the Rays are 32-22. Against the AL East, the Orioles are 32-24 while the Rays are 31-23.

All those numbers are close, so it should be no surprise that these clubs have split their 12 games this year. Heck, they split 18 games last year and guess what? The all-time series is even at 126-126 going into tonight. You can't make this stuff up. Yeah, it's close.

The last time these teams played, the O's turned a rare trick by beating Tampa Bay at its own game. They outpitched the Rays in taking two of three Aug. 3-5 on the road where they lost 2-0 and then won by scores of 4-0 and 1-0.

So the series score for those three games was Orioles 5, Rays 2. The O's starters allowed just two runs in the series, pitching to an ERA of 0.92.

In fact, the Orioles have shut out Tampa Bay the last 21 innings heading into this series and have allowed just four runs in their last four games vs. the Rays.

Here are some stats from the head-to-head season series this year:
Runs: Orioles 36, Rays 46
Batting average: Orioles .218, Rays .210
Homers: Orioles 11, Rays 10
Team OPS: Orioles .621, Rays .626
Team ERA: Orioles 3.74, Rays 2.38
WHIP: Orioles 1.19, Rays 1.14

Yes, it has been a pitching-dominated series and the O's have fanned 117 times in 12 games vs. Rays pitching.

Few Orioles have good stats this year vs. the Rays staff:
* Adam Jones is batting .298-2-6 at 14-for-47.
* J.J. Hardy is batting .273-0-1 at 12-for-44.
* Matt Wieters is batting .244-2-5 at 5-for-31.

Over his last 10 games, Mark Reynolds is batting .343 (12-for-35) with nine homers and 17 RBIs. But, this season against Tampa Bay, he is just 5-for-31 with one homer, two RBIs and 13 strikeouts.

The Orioles have yet to face the Rays with a healthy Evan Longoria this year, as he hasn't played in any of the 12 games. But he's back now and over eight September games, Longoria is batting .310 with two homers, six RBIs and a .961 OPS.

The series' pitching matchups:
Tonight: Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.46 ERA) vs. Matt Moore (10-9, 3.66).
Wednesday: Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.62 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (9-8, 4.28 ERA).
Thursday: TBA vs. Jeremy Hellickson (8-10, 3.33 ERA).

For many years when the Orioles and Rays met, it was just to see who was actually worse and would pick higher in the next draft.

Not anymore.

What are your thoughts?: How will the Orioles do in this series? How will the O's do without Nick Markakis? Can the O's outpitch Tampa Bay as they did the last time these clubs played? What is the key to this series?

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