Manager: Joe Maddon, ninth year Record: 67-74 Last 10 games: 3-7 Who to watch: 3B Evan Longoria (.255/.325/.397, 22 doubles, 18 HR, 81 RBIs); 2B Ben Zobrist (.273/.357/.404, 31 doubles, 9 HR, 44 RBIs, 74 R); RHP Alex Cobb (9-7, 2.98 ERA, 1.17 WHIP); LHP Drew Smyly (9-10, 3.31 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) Season series vs. O's: 5-11, 51 runs scored, 71 runs allowed Pitching probables Sept. 5: Alex Cobb vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD Sept. 6: Drew Smyly vs. Kevin Gausman, 1 p.m., FOX Sept. 7: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Bud Norris, 1:30 p.m., MASN2 HD Series breakdown The Orioles begin their all-division finish to the regular season with three games at Tampa Bay this weekend. Baltimore has 23 games remaining and they're all against American League East foes. And the Orioles are catching a struggling Rays squad that has fallen apart since climbing all the way back to .500 on Aug. 15. Tampa Bay has lost 13 of 19 games since with the bats mostly to blame. The Rays have scored more than four runs only three times in the last 19 games with 56 runs overall during that stretch (2.9 per game). The pitching has been hit or miss of late with the Rays allowing 76 runs (four per game) over the last 19 contests, but they've held opponents to one or fewer in six of those games. The Rays still own one of the AL's best pitching staffs despite their fourth-place season. They rank third in the AL with a 3.49 team ERA and a 3.51 starters' ERA while standing eighth with a 3.47 bullpen ERA. The Orioles will be up against three strong starters with tonight being the must-watch pitching match-up of the series. Rays right-hander Alex Cobb (9-7, 2.98 ERA) is looking to bounce back from his first loss since June 23 as he starts opposite Wei-Yin Chen (14-4, 3.83 ERA) in the opener. Cobb was still good in the defeat, allowing one earned run in 6 1/3 innings, giving him 10 straight starts with two earned runs or fewer. Over those 10 starts, he's 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings. Cobb, 26, has always pitched well against the Orioles, going 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in seven career starts against them. However, he lasted just four innings when facing them on Aug. 26, finishing with two earned runs in an outing abbreviated by an elevated pitch count (92). Left-hander Drew Smyly makes his seventh start since being acquired from the Tigers in the David Price trade, and will face rookie Kevin Gausman. Smyly has been great with the Rays, going 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts while going 9-10 with a 3.31 ERA in 27 appearances (24 starts) overall this year. The 25-year-old snapped a string of four straight quality starts when he allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings his last time out. Like Cobb, Smyly also has excellent career numbers against the Orioles, going 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in five appearances (two starts), allowing two runs in 21 innings. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 3.74 ERA) takes on Bud Norris in Sunday's finale. The Rays bullpen might want to be rested for this one, as the 27-year-old has failed to get out of the fifth in six of his 10 starts this season, including his last two. Hellickson has allowed eight earned runs in 7 2/3 innings for a 9.39 ERA over his last two starts. As for the other side of the ball, the recent hitting woes have been more the norm for the Rays this season, as they are 14th in the AL with 544 runs, 13th with 100 homers and a .687 OPS, and 11th with a .248 average. Although third baseman Evan Longoria has continued to have a disappointing 2014, he has driven in 21 runs in his last 20 games to give him a solid 81 RBIs on the season. The rest of his numbers don't measure up to his usual marks, as his .722 OPS would be a career-low by 120 points, his 18 homers are on pace for his fewest in a full season since 2010 and his 22 doubles also are below his career pace. Right fielder Kevin Kiermaier has continued to be a threat with 14 doubles, six triples, nine homers and 32 RBIs in 90 games. First baseman James Loney might lack power, but he has driven in 63 runs, second-most on the team. Second baseman Ben Zobrist leads the club with 31 doubles and 74 runs scored while adding nine homers and 44 RBIs. The Rays will be looking to get back on track after being swept by the Blue Jays. As manager Joe Maddon noted yesterday, the Rays have wasted a lot of good pitching this season. Tampa Bay will hope to reverse that trend with the Orioles in town trying to shave their magic number below 15 to take a few more steps toward a division title.
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