O’s game blog: Trying to break through in series with Tampa Bay

The Orioles’ last homestand of the 2020 season got off to a promising start. They took two of three games from Atlanta and held the very strong Braves offense to seven runs. But the Orioles have lost the last three games by 3-1, 10-6 and 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays. Tonight the clubs play the fourth game of a five-game series that ends Sunday.

The Orioles were held to one run or none for the seventh time in the last 10 games in Friday’s loss. They are 22-30 with eight games remaining. Baltimore batters struck out 14 times last night, the fifth time this year they have fanned that many times or more in one game. They dropped to 6-12 in one-run games and to 12-19 at home.

Tampa Bay (34-18), which has already clinched a playoff spot, is leading the American League East by 3 1/2 games over the New York Yankees. The Rays’ magic number to clinch the division title is five. If they get it, this would be their third division championship, following 2008 and 2010. Tampa Bay has made the playoffs six times since 2008, counting this year.

The Rays have the second-best record in the majors, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 37-15. Tampa Bay is 15-7 in its last 22 games. The Rays are now 12-4 in one-run games after Saturday’s victory. And they are 31-13 in one-run decisions since May 5, 2019.

The O’s got a solid outing from right-hander Alex Cobb last night, as he produced a quality start, the team’s fifth in the past 13 games. Cobb allowed two runs over six innings on 91 pitches.

The Orioles rotation ERA for the season is 4.84, the eighth-best in the American League. Their rotation ERA was 5.57 and rated 14th in the AL in 2019.

Over the last eight games, the O’s starter allowed one earned run or none five times, for a 2.90 ERA in those eight games. Over the past 15 games, their starting pitcher gave up one earned run or zero nine times. The starter ERA is 3.63 in that 15-game stretch.

Right-hander Jorge López (2-0, 5.23 ERA) will make his fifth start for the Orioles. He is 2-0 with a 3.80 ERA in the first four. In those four games he has walked seven and fanned 14 in 21 1/3 innings, allowing a .218 batting average and an OPS against of .646. In four home games, two starts, López is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA for Baltimore.

Lopez-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgLopez is coming off a very good outing against Atlanta on Monday night. He went seven innings, which is the longest outing by an O’s starter for the season, and gave up five hits and one run.

López is throwing his two fastballs (two-seam and four-seamer) a combined 62 percent of the time with an average velocity of 93.7 mph, per Fangraphs.com. He throws his curve 30 percent and changeup eight percent.

Rays right-hander Charlie Morton (1-2, 5.14 ERA) will make his eighth start. Signed as a free agent in December 2018 by the Rays, he has thrown 28 innings, allowing 31 hits with a 1.357 WHIP and 10.0 hits per nine. It is a fall-off of performance from the pitcher who went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA last year and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote. From 2017 through 2019 for the Astros and Rays, Morton went 45-16 with a 3.24 ERA over 88 starts.

He has not faced the Orioles in 2020. In six career starts he is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.261 WHIP versus Baltimore. Over 29 1/3 innings he has walked eight and fanned 36 O’s batters.

Morton throws his fastball 57 percent with a velocity on average of 93 mph. He has used his curveball 33 percent, his cutter seven percent and changeup just three percent.

On the first pitch of a plate appearance, the Orioles rank first in the AL and second in the majors in batting average (.416), and rank second in the AL and fourth in the majors in OPS (1.101), while ranking seventh in the majors in extra-base hits (29). The Orioles rank second in the AL and are fourth in the major leagues in doubles (18) and are second in the AL in hits (77) as a team on the first pitch.

The Orioles and Major League Baseball will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by focusing on the contributions to baseball by Latino players past and present. The O’s will recognize Hispanic heritage when Orioles Hall of Famer Dennis Martínez throws out a virtual ceremonial first pitch prior to tonight’s game. Martínez, nicknamed “El Presidente,” will also join the MASN and Orioles Radio Network pregame shows to discuss his work aiding COVID-19 relief efforts in his native Nicaragua.

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