O's game blog: The series opener against Tampa Bay

After chasing the Tampa Bay Rays all season – a team that at times early this year seemed uncatchable – the Orioles caught them yesterday. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers while the Rays lost to Texas and got swept in a three-game series.

So while the clubs are even atop the American League East in the games behind column, the Orioles are two games ahead in the loss column and lead the division by percentage points. The Orioles (58-37) are playing .611 ball and Tampa Bay (60-39) is playing .606 ball.

The Orioles, on a pace for 99 wins, have the best record in the American League and trail only Atlanta (61-33, .649) for the best mark in MLB.

The Orioles' 8-5 Wednesday win completed a 4-2 homestand and kept them from being swept by Los Angeles. The Orioles have not been swept since May of 2022 and have now gone 70 straight series without being swept. They became the eighth team in MLB history to go 70 or more series without being swept. Next on the list is the Atlanta Braves, who were not swept in 72 consecutive series from 2003-2005.

Since going through a stretch where they lost six of seven games, the Orioles are 9-2 in the last 11 games, outscoring opponents 75-41 in that span. The O's are batting .288 with an OPS of .868 in those 11 games. The Orioles scored 15 runs against the Dodgers and have scored 52 in the last eight games. At 4.98 runs per game for the year, the O’s rank fifth in the AL. The Rays are second at 5.31 runs per game.

But Tampa Bay was outscored 13-6 in getting swept at Texas. Overall, they have lost four in a row and 11 of the past 14 games. Over each team’s last 32 games, the Orioles are 19-13 and Tampa Bay is 13-19.

The Rays began this year at 13-0, 20-3 and were 27-6 on May 5. But Tampa Bay is 31-32 in its past 63 games.

The Orioles lost their first two series of the year against AL East clubs, but are 5-0-2 over their past seven division series. They are 14-7 in all the games those seven series and 16-11 on the year in AL East play. Tampa Bay is 17-10 within the division.

Two years ago, in 2021, the Orioles went 1-18 against Tampa Bay and last year they went 9-10, including a 2-7 mark at the Trop. The Orioles are 3-2 versus the Rays this year, going 2-1 at home in early May and 1-1 last month in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Tampa Bay, since the 2017 season, is 70-40 (.636) against the Orioles. The Orioles, per Stats, are 9-32 since 2018 at the Trop.

Gunnar and Adley heating up: They have hit together at the top of the Baltimore batting order often lately and Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman both take hot bats into this series. Henderson is hitting .308 (12-for-39) in his past 10 games with a double, triple, four homers and 11 RBIs. His OPS is 1.097 in this span. Rutschman is 8-for-24 (.333) during a six-game hitting streak with three doubles and two homers. Over his past 16 games, he is hitting .313 (20-for-64) with five doubles and three home runs.

Henderson, through the season’s first 33 games, was batting .170 with a .651 OPS. In 52 games since then he is batting .287 with a .903 OPS.

The pitchers: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (9-6, 4.77 ERA) gets the start for Baltimore in the series opener. On Saturday versus Miami, he allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings. Over his past five games, he has allowed four runs or more four times, going 1-2 with a 7.62 ERA and .780 OPS against. He had allowed four runs or more just four times in his first 15 starts and had a season ERA of 3.94 at that point.

On May 8, Gibson went six innings allowing six hits and two runs against Tampa Bay. In 14 career appearances versus this club, he is 6-6 with a 4.24 ERA and .722 OPS.

But over his last seven career starts versus Tampa Bay, Gibson is 5-1 with a 1.83 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and the Rays are just 4-for-28 with runners in scoring position in those seven games.

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow (3-3, 3.78 ERA) will make his 10th start of the 2023 season. Glasnow had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 4, 2021, but returned very late last year and made a playoff start for the Rays. This year he suffered an oblique strain early in spring training and did not make his season debut until May 27.

Saturday against Kansas City he gave up just one run over six innings. In his past four starts, he has a 2.42 ERA with five walks and 38 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings. But the O’s scored six runs off him in 4 1/3 innings on June 20 as Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer and Anthony Santander a two-run shot. In seven career games against the Orioles, he is 4-1 with a 3.23 ERA.

Standings note: According to Stats, the Orioles and Tampa Bay have been in the top two spots together in the AL East standings for 95 of 112 days this season. That is the most in MLB of any two teams. In the NL West, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have been in those spots for 91 days and in the AL Central, Cleveland and Minnesota have been there for 87 days. 

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