O's game blog: The Tampa Bay series begins

The Orioles, who lead the American League East by two games and are 10-0-2 in their past 12 series in the division, host the Rays tonight to start a crucial four-game series at Oriole Park. 

The Orioles are 91-54 for the best record in the AL and second-best to Atlanta in MLB. They have won eight of 11, 14 of 20, 17 of 24 and 20 of the last 29 games. They are 43-27 at home and 37-19 in the second half.

Tampa Bay is 90-57 and looking to make the postseason for the fifth year in a row. The Rays have won five of six, 12 of 17, 16 of 22, 18 of 25 and 21 of their past 30 games.

Tampa Bay is 40-32 on the road, 32-22 in the second half and 71-22 when they score first. They are 19-35 when their opponent scores first.

The Orioles are 6-3 versus the Rays and one more win will give the Orioles the season series victory. They went 9-10 last season against the Rays and 1-18 in 2021.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish (11-6, 3.03 ERA), who had two good starts this year against the Rays, will make his 27th start of the year tonight. The Orioles are 18-8 in the first 26.

Bradish ranks third in the AL in ERA, third in batting average against (.223) and OPS (.629), fifth in groundball percentage (48.7) and sixth in WHIP (1.092).

He is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts on the year against the Rays, allowing four earned runs and 11 hits over nine innings with three walks, 13 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.182.

Bradish has thrown five straight quality starts and six straight games allowing two earned runs or less. In those six games, he is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Over his past 15 starts since mid-June he has allowed two earned runs or less 13 times, going 9-4 with a 2.33 ERA. Opponents have hit .193 against him with a .565 OPS. 

Acquired via trade from the Guardians on July 31, right-hander Aaron Civale (7-3, 2.96 ERA) will make his 21st start of the year and eighth for the Rays.

In his Rays-only games, he is 2-1 with a 4.29 ERA and 1.290 WHIP and Tampa Bay is 5-2 in those games.

Civale, who is 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in road games, has allowed seven earned runs and six hits in 10 1/3 innings in his last two starts.

He has not started this year against the Orioles but is 2-0 with a 7.36 ERA in 11 career innings. The Orioles have produced 16 hits against him in those games, batting .340 with a 1.027 OPS. 

The Orioles are 28-16 in AL East games for the season. But they lost their first two-division series in April. Since then they have gone 10-0-2 in 12 AL East series. They are 12-5, winning their past five AL East series and they are 26-12 in those last 12 series. They are 11-7 in home games against division opponents. 

When he appears in a game, Heston Kjerstad will become the sixth Orioles player to make his major league debut this season. He will be joining right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez on April 5 at Texas, infielder Joey Ortiz on April 27 at Detroit, infielder Jordan Westburg on June 26 vs. Cincinnati, right-handed pitcher Chris Vallimont on July 3 at New York-AL, and outfielder Colton Cowser on July 5 at New York-AL. Kjerstad is currently ranked as the No. 3 Orioles prospect and No. 24 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline.

Kjerstad, 24, has batted .303/.376/.528 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 21 home runs, 87 runs scored, 55 RBIs, 42 walks, five stolen bases, and a .904 OPS in 122 combined games between Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie this season.

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