Opposite dugout: Rays trying to take advantage of early AL East-heavy schedule

rays-logo.jpgManager: Kevin Cash (2nd season)

Record: 8-10

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: 2B Logan Forsythe (.303/.370/.545 with 8 RBIs), RF Steven Souza Jr. (.291/.339/.600 with 5 HR, 11 RBIs), DH Corey Dickerson (5 HR, 9 RBIs), LHP Matt Moore (1-1, 3.60 ERA), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (4-1, 1.69 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 0-2

Pitching probables:

April 25: RHP Kevin Gasuman vs. RHP Chris Archer, 7:10 p.m., MASN
April 26: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi, 7:10 p.m., MASN2
April 27: RHP Chris Tillman vs. LHP Matt Moore, 7:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Rays:

After this past weekend, the Rays have already played each American League East opponent this season. They are 5-7 in those division games as they start their second series against the Orioles, this time at Tropicana Field. Their only home series against an East foe was the season-opening four-game set they split with the Blue Jays, meaning they're 3-5 on the road in division games.

The Rays have split the other six games they've played, a pair of three-game series against the Indians and White Sox. So something has to give for the Rays against the Birds in St. Petersburg, Fla., with a .500 record at home, but a losing record against the division. However, even with the shaky start, the Rays aren't in last place, holding a half-game lead over the Yankees.

Offensive struggles have plagued the Rays early this season. Although they rank fourth in the AL in home runs with 23, they rank outside of the top 10 in runs, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, all statistics in which the Orioles rank in the top five, if not first. Pitching, on the other hand, has been pretty good for the Rays, despite a terrible start to the season by ace right-hander Chris Archer. Tampa Bay's 3.52 ERA ranks fifth in the league, while their batting average against of .236 is sixth. Rays hurlers have struck out the third-most batters (167) and walked the second fewest (41).

The Rays offense is mostly led by second baseman Logan Forsythe and right fielder Steven Souza Jr. Forsythe leads the team with 20 hits, a .303 average and .370 OBP, while Souza is tied with the most homers (five) and has the most RBIs (11). Designated hitter Corey Dickerson also has five longballs to go with his nine RBIs. Veteran third baseman Evan Longoria has struggled hitting .253, and former Oriole Steve Pearce is off to a slow start, though his .257 average comes from just 35 at-bats.

Now about Archer's horrible start ... The right-hander is 0-4 with a 7.32 ERA. He has only made it into the sixth inning once so far. The Orioles launched four home runs off him on April 8, part of the six runs on 10 hits Archer gave up. The one bright spot for Archer heading into tonight's start is his 3.48 ERA at home. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi takes the mound for tomorrow night's game. He is 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA, with the loss coming at the hand of the O's on April 10 when he gave up four runs on nine hits over six innings. Like Archer, Odorizzi will welcome pitching at The Trop, posting a 0.71 ERA at home. Numbers-wise, left-hander Matt Moore will be the Orioles' toughest task this week, bringing his 1-1 record and 3.60 ERA to start the finale. He spots a 2.95 ERA at home this season and is 4-4 with a 3.83 ERA in his career against the Birds.

The Rays haven't been able to capitalize on their AL East-heavy early part of the schedule. After this series against the Orioles, the Rays welcome the Blue Jays back to The Trop before taking a break from division rivals. Although it's early, only four games separate the entire AL East, so this six-game stretch for the Rays presents an opportunity for them to shake up the standings.

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