O's game blog: Game 2 of the Tampa Bay series

Now working on just their third losing streak of the year of three games or more, the Orioles (91-55) host the Tampa Bay Rays (91-57) tonight. It’s the second game of this critical series to impact first place in the American League East. 

The Orioles lost 4-3 last night in the series opener and are now 26-14 in one-run games, 32-16 in series-opening games and 53-17 when they score first. They are now 6-4 versus Tampa Bay for the year and 28-17 in AL East games.

The Orioles have been so consistent this year that they have no long losing streaks, having dropped a season-high four straight from June 27-July 1. They lost three in a row twice – from May 6-8 and now.

The Orioles lead now is down to just one game atop the division. The O’s and Rays have been tied for first two times this year, on July 19 and July 21, and tonight would be a third occasion with a Tampa Bay victory.

After their 13-12 win over Boston on Saturday at Fenway Park, the O’s held a four-game lead atop the AL East.

The Birds look to get their offense humming again tonight after scoring just five runs over the past three games. They have lost those three by a combined 10-5 score. In the five games before that, they scored 48 runs – producing 10 runs or more in four of those five games.

Orioles right-hander Jack Flaherty (8-8, 4.98 ERA) gets tonight’s start. It’s his first career start against Tampa Bay. Flaherty is 1-2 with a 7.16 ERA in six starts for the Orioles. His club debut saw him allow just one run in six innings Aug. 3 at Toronto. But in the five starts since then his ERA is 8.72 and the OPS against him is .982.

This year, in four games versus an AL East team, he is 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA, making two starts against Toronto and one each versus New York and Boston.

Flaherty has allowed eight earned runs his past eight innings over his last two starts. But the Orioles won those games, 8-5 at Arizona and 13-12 at Boston.

Tampa Bay righty Zach Eflin (14-8, 3.53 ERA) will make his 29th start and the Rays are 20-8 in the first 28 games.

He ranks ninth in the AL in ERA, fourth in WHIP at 1.052 and tied for ninth in batting average against at .240. Eflin is tied for the AL lead in wins with the Orioles’ Kyle Gibson and Chris Bassitt of Toronto.

Over his past five starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA. In 11 second-half starts, he is 4-4 with a 4.01 ERA.

Eflin has made two starts in 2023 against the Orioles, throwing seven scoreless innings July 21 but allowing four runs over six innings May 9. In four career games he is 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA versus Baltimore.

Tampa Bay is now 25-16 in AL East games. The Rays overall have won six of seven, 13 of 18, 17 of 23 and 22 of their past 31 games.

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