They may finish the season with a dismal record, but the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are providing their fans with some hope for the future.
The Devil Rays look to continue their second-half surge as they resume a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay has the AL’s second-worst record at 46-71, but has gone 14-11 since the All-Star break.
Not only have the Devil Rays been winning, but they’ve been doing it in exciting fashion.
Pinch-hitter Jared Sandberg doubled home the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday, lifting Tampa Bay over Baltimore 4-3.
The Devil Rays have played a major league-leading 66 games decided by two or fewer runs, going 32-34.
Monday’s win was their third walk-off victory in the last seven games.
“We make a lot of them exciting,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “We have confidence that we can come back.
“You don’t want to get yourself in a position where you’re coming from behind all the time. My preference would be to get a two- or three-run lead and just hold it.”
Sandberg entered with just four hits in 18 at-bats—including eight strikeouts—since being called up for the second time this season from Triple-A Durham on July 30.
“This definitely helps the confidence,” he said.
Brook Fordyce homered and drove in two runs for the Orioles, who have lost four of six.
Rodrigo Lopez will take the mound for Baltimore on Tuesday.
The Mexican right-hander is looking to earn his third win in as many starts. He is 2-0 with a 3.56 ERA over his last two outings.
Lopez is 4-1 with a 3.24 ERA in six career appearances against Tampa Bay.
STANDINGS: Orioles - 4th place, 13 1/2 GB, AL East. Devil Rays - 5th place, 24 1/2 GB, AL East.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Lopez (5-6, 5.69 ERA). Lopez pitched 6 2-3 innings, allowing three runs and eight hits in a 5-3 win over Minnesota on Thursday.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Rob Bell (2-2, 6.27 ERA). Bell has gone three starts without receiving a decision. The 26-year-old right-hander yielded two runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 3-2 win over Kansas City on Thursday.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Melvin Mora, .325 avg.; Tony Batista, 20 HRs; Jay Gibbons, 81 RBIs; Jeff Conine, 69 runs; Brian Roberts, 18 SBs. Devil Rays - Aubrey Huff, .302 avg., 19 HRs and 60 RBIs; Rocco Baldelli, 64 runs; Carl Crawford, 34 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Devil Rays, 8-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - INF Carlos Mendez was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa on Monday. Baltimore recalled RHP Rick Bauer from Ottawa to take his place on the roster. … 1B-OF Conine has missed three straight games with a sore right biceps muscle. He’s listed as day-to-day. … RF Gibbons is riding a career-high 15-game hitting streak. Devil Rays - OF Huff is batting .444 (4-for-9) with a double and homer in his career against RHP Lopez. … 1B Travis Lee has 14 RBIs in his last 14 games. … RHP Bell has allowed five home runs in 10 outings this year. He had allowed 80 home runs in 70 career appearances prior to this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 26-33 on the road; Devil Rays - 27-34 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - 1B David Segui (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Mora (hand), 15-day DL; OF B.J. Surhoff (quadriceps), 15-day DL; RHP Kurt Ainsworth (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (knee), 60-day DL; 2B Jerry Hairston Jr. (foot), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL. Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; INF Terry Shumpert (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 60-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL.