O’s game blog: Chen on the mound in series opener against Tampa

The Orioles have lost three of four series this year. They’ll try to turn that around starting tonight, but they will have to do it against a Tampa Bay team that they went just 6-13 against in 2013.

Remember that four-game sweep the O’s suffered late last season in St. Petersburg? It pretty much ended any of their playoff hopes.

The Orioles lost 11 of the last 13 games between these two teams last season, and are 1-5 in thei last six home games against the Rays.

Matt Wieters does enjoy seeing Tampa Bay pitchers, something most hitters can’t say. Over 72 career games against Rays pitching, Wieters is batting .333 with 15 homers, 52 RBIs and a .568 slugging percentage. That .333 average is the highest against Rays pitching among players with 150 at-bats.

Tampa Bay is off to a 7-5 start, and is 3-3 during its current nine-game road trip. The Rays are not hitting much and rank 12th in the American League in runs and 13th in team batting average.

Wei-Yin Chen could certainly use a good outing tonight. He is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA through two starts, and opponent batters have 21 hits in 51 at-bats against him for a .412 average. Left-handed batters are 8-for-15 (.533) against Chen. His WHIP right now is 1.969.

Right-hander Chris Archer (1-0, 1.38 ERA) starts for Tampa. In 13 career games against the AL East, Archer is an impressive 7-3 with an ERA of 2.71.

A couple of minor league notes: Triple-A Norfolk catcher catcher Caleb Joseph has hit safely in six straight games, batting .423 (11-for-26) with three doubles, one homer and six RBIs. Joseph is hitting .600 (6-for-10) against left-handers this season.

Double-A Bowie outfielder Dariel Alvarez is one of three Baysox players to appear in all 11 games this season, but he is the only one to have hit safely in every game. So that gives Alvarez an 11-game hitting streak during which he is batting .304 (14-for-46) with five doubles and eight RBIs.

After five straight losses, Single-A Frederick routed Lynchburg 12-6 Sunday. The Keys pounded out a season-high 16 hits, and eight of the nine starters finished with at least one hit. After going 2-for-31 with runners in scoring position the previous three games, the Keys were 8-for-23 Sunday.

Single-A Delmarva first baseman Trey Mancini hit safely in his fourth straight game on Sunday. The Shorebirds’ first sacker has started all 11 games, leading the team in hits (12), doubles (4) and total bases (18). In a marquee minor league pitching matchup set for Wednesday night at Perdue Stadium, Delmarva’s Hunter Harvey will face Hagerstown’s Lucas Giolito in a matchup of first-round draft picks.

The RISP stat: The Orioles have matched their total number of weekend hits with runners in scoring position in the first two innings tonight against Tampa Bay. They went 3-for-20 in the three games of the Toronto series and started 3-for-7 tonight with RISP in taking an early 4-0 lead on Tampa Bay. If the O’s score one more run they’ll match their total from the three games against Toronto.

The early offense: Strange game, this baseball. The Orioles scored five runs on 22 hits in three games this weekend and exceeded that run total in the first three innings tonight against a pretty good pitcher in Archer.

The Orioles took a 6-0 lead to the fourth. Over the first three innings they went 9-for-18 with five doubles and 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

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