O’s game blog: Series begins vs. Rays

After scoring 23 runs in back-to-back wins that followed a 19-game losing streak, the Orioles have a bit of momentum as they head into the series that begins tonight at Oriole Park. But this series is against the team with which they have had the toughest time this year.

The first-place Tampa Bay Rays (79-48) come to Baltimore for a three-game weekend series to wrap up a nine-game homestand for the Orioles. The Rays are 15-1 this season against the Orioles and have outscored Baltimore 128-57 in the season series. The Orioles are just 2-21 in the last 23 games versus the Rays since Aug. 25, 2020.

Tampa Bay has won four in a row, eight of nine games and is now a season-best 31 games over the .500 mark. When the teams last played Aug. 16-19, the Rays swept the four-game series by a 34-8 score. The Rays are 19-6 over their past 25 games, 16-6 this month and 26-11 since the All-Star Game.

So the O’s have some work to do this weekend.

But they go into the series with wins over the Los Angeles Angels by 10-6 and 13-1 scores. The Orioles were trailing the Angels 6-2 after the top of the fourth on Wednesday night. And then they outscored them 21-1 the rest of the series. They scored the last six runs on Wednesday and then won a blowout yesterday.

Lefty Keegan Akin had his first career quality start and went a career-high seven innings yesterday, allowing three hits and one run with two walks and six strikeouts. He improved to 1-8 with an ERA of 7.26.

This was the sixth time this year that an O’s pitcher went seven innings or more and first time it was someone other than John Means. Means went seven on opening day April 2 at Boston, seven on April 18 at Texas, seven April 30 at Oakland and nine in his no-hitter May 5 at Seattle. He had another seven-inning game May 24 at Minnesota. The Orioles actually lost two of those games, so they are 4-2 on the year when their starter goes seven or more innings.

Matt-Harvey-Fires-Black-Sidebar.jpgRight-hander Matt Harvey (6-13, 6.27 ERA) will make his 26th start tonight. For the year, Harvey has thrown 113 1/3 innings, allowing 141 hits, 18 homers with 34 walks and 89 strikeouts. He has a WHIP of 1.544 with a 2.7 walk rate and 7.1 strikeouts per nine.

The Orioles are 10-15 in Harvey’s 2021 starts, but 0-4 in the last four.

He began the post-All-Star break portion of the year throwing 18 1/3 scoreless innings over three starts with one walk and 11 strikeouts. He gave up a .156 batting average and the Orioles went 3-0 in those games. But they are 0-4 his past four, where he has yielded 14 earned runs and 19 hits in 23 innings. He is 0-3 with an ERA of 6.63 in this span, allowing a .291 batting average and .946 OPS.

In two starts against Tampa Bay this season, he is 0-2 with a 15.63 ERA, allowing 11 runs and 12 hits in 6 1/3 innings and the Rays have hit .387 with an OPS of 1.312 against him.

Lefty Shane McClanahan (8-4, 3.63 ERA) gets the start for the Rays. Tampa Bay is 12-7 when he takes the mound and 6-1 in his last seven starts. In those seven, McClanahan is 5-1 with a 2.82 ERA and he’s allowed just two homers in 38 1/3 innings. He has allowed three runs or less 12 straight starts.

In three starts this year against the Orioles, he is 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA, allowing five earned runs over 17 innings with one homer, three walks and 23 strikeouts.

Ryan Mountcastle enters today riding a 17-game on-base streak, a career high, dating to July 28. Mountcastle has appeared in 14 games in August, batting .353/.393/.804 (18-for-51) with five doubles, six home runs, 10 runs and 12 RBIs. His 1.197 OPS and .804 slugging percentage this month lead all major league rookies (minimum 55 plate appearances), while his six home runs are tied for the second-most.

Mountcastle’s 21 RBIs and nine home runs since the All-Star break lead the O’s and he’s batting .290/.327/.630 (29-for-100) in the second half. His 23 home runs and 69 RBIs rank as the second-most by a rookie in the majors this season, behind Adolis García of Texas with 27 and 71.

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