Is the O’s offense up to the challenge of facing Tampa Bay?

The Orioles are 3-3 over the last six games against Oakland and New York. Should they win the series against Tampa Bay this weekend, they would finish 5-4 in a nine-game stretch against those three teams and that would be a decent showing during a tough stretch.

The Orioles’ offense now gets a good weekend test against a Tampa Bay pitching staff that ranks second in the American League in ERA at 3.49.

The Orioles’ offense has been better lately. Since scoring a total of three runs in three games - two of those against Tampa Bay - the Orioles have now scored 41 runs with a team average of .311 the last seven games. The Orioles scored 19 runs on 39 hits in the Yankees series.

But the Orioles have had a tough time scoring against the Rays’ staff this year and they produce less offense against Tampa Bay than any other AL East team.

O’s offense against the AL East:
* Orioles bat .290 and average 4.7 runs per game vs. New York.
* Orioles bat .245 and average 5.3 runs per game vs. Boston.
* Orioles bat .249 and average 3.8 runs per game vs. Toronto.
* Orioles bat .221 and average 3.4 runs per game vs. Tampa Bay.

But while some of their hitters have really struggled against the Rays - with Wilson Betemit going 3-for-25, Chris Davis 4-for-23 and Matt Wieters 8-for-34 - others have fared well against that Rays staff.

Adam Jones is batting .314 (11-for-35) with two homers and six RBIs. J.J. Hardy is batting .303 (10-for-33) with a homer and three RBIs. Nick Markakis is batting .364 (8-for-22) with a homer and four RBIs.

However, this Tampa staff is just pretty darn good. They lead the majors with a 2.45 ERA, 197 strikeouts and a .200 opponents’ batting average since the All-Star break. The Rays completed a 6-3 road swing with a 4-1 win over Oakland on Wednesday and they finished the trip with a 1.70 ERA.

The Orioles face lefty Matt Moore (7-7, 4.01 ERA) tonight. His ERA is 1.86 over his last three starts and 3.32 over his past 10. They face Jeremy Hellickson (6-6, 3.23 ERA) tomorrow and lefty David Price (14-4, 2.64 ERA) on Sunday.

Hellickson is 5-2 with an ERA of 2.25 in his career against the Orioles and Price is 6-2, 2.45 and has allowed one earned run over 14 1/3 in two starts this year.

The Orioles’ offense has shown signs of life the last week or so. It really needs to be up to the task this weekend.

No runs so far: Through four at-bats against Moore, the Orioles have not scored and are in a 0-0 tie with the Rays. They have five hits, all singles, against Moore and left the bases loaded in the first inning.

Nick Markakis is 1-for-2 today and is 21-for-54 (.389) over his last 13 games and is batting .371 since the All-Star break.

Moore is already at 81 pitches. He threw 25 in the first, 21 in the second, 19 in the third and 16 in the fourth.

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