With the AL East race tightening with each day, the Baltimore Orioles know they can ill-afford to lose close games.
“You’ve got to win these close ones when you’re in a pennant race,” Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said.
The Orioles look to bounce back from consecutive one-run losses in the opener of a three-game series with the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Baltimore lost the final two games of its series with the Minnesota Twins, 4-3 on Tuesday and 3-2 on Wednesday. They’ve lost three one-run games in the past week, slipping behind Boston and the New York Yankees into third place in the East.
The Orioles, who were in first place for much of the first half of the season, have dropped 14 of their last 22 games.
Rafael Palmeiro hit a two-run homer for Baltimore on Wednesday, tying Wade Boggs for 23rd place on the all-time hits list with 3,010. He also matched Lou Gehrig for sixth in extra-base hits with 1,190. Palmeiro passed Frank Robinson to take 10th in total bases with 5,375 and passed Al Simmons for 15th in RBIs with 1,829.
Palmeiro has hit in 10 straight games, going 17-for-36 during that span.
Tampa Bay lost its second straight Wednesday, 9-4 to the Red Sox.
The Devil Rays, though, managed to finish 4-3 on their road trip. After resting Thursday, they are beginning a 10-game homestand against the Orioles, Red Sox and Kansas City Royals.
“We’ll enjoy a day off and hope we have a good homestand,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “That’s all we can do.”