A season high-tying losing streak last week didn’t bode well for the Tampa Bay Rays’ chances for a second consecutive playoff berth.
The Rays look to build on a thrilling victory and ride Price’s success at Tropicana Field to their third consecutive win Tuesday night when they open a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, who have struggled on the road against AL East rivals.
Tampa Bay (63-54) matched its longest skid of 2009 by dropping five straight last week, losing valuable ground in the wild-card race.
The Rays, though, have to be feeling better after Gregg Zaun’s(notes) pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning delivered them a 5-2 win over Toronto on Sunday. It was Zaun’s fifth career grand slam and first since Sept. 6 while with Toronto. That homer, a game-winning drive in the 13th inning, came against the Rays.
“The funny thing is we were talking about it,” said Zaun, who started this season with Baltimore before clearing waivers and getting traded Aug. 7. “I don’t know who said it, but somebody said ‘Do that stuff for us.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll do my best.’ Sure enough, today.”
The Rays are four games behind wild card-leading Texas. They’ll try to narrow the gap by handing the ball to Price (5-5, 5.13 ERA).
Price gave up six runs in six innings of a 6-0 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels last Tuesday, falling to 0-4 with an 8.07 ERA in seven road games. But he’s been far more effective at Tropicana Field, where he’s won four straight starts to improve to 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in seven games.
Price says he can’t explain the discrepancy.
“I really couldn’t tell you,” he told the Rays’ official Web site. “I honestly feel the same at home and on the road. I felt great in L.A. I don’t know what it is. I do feel very comfortable here, though, that’s for sure.”
In his only previous start against Baltimore, Price gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings and failed to get a decision in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 road victory Sept. 22.
Baltimore (48-70) fell 8-5 at home against the Angels on Monday night for its 22nd loss in 30 games since the All-Star break.
The Orioles have been even worse when visiting AL East opponents. They’re 3-18 on the road within the division, including 1-1 at Tropicana Field.
Luke Scott(notes) made his first major league start at first base Monday, replacing Aubrey Huff(notes), who was traded to Detroit. Scott played the position well in the start of a seven-week experiment to see if he has the defensive prowess to begin the 2010 season as Baltimore’s everyday first baseman.
“Scott looked comfortable over at first,” manager Dave Trembley said. “His footwork was OK holding runners; he knew what he was doing.”
Jason Berken(notes) (2-10, 6.63) will take the mound Tuesday for the Orioles, who are 3-12 in games started by the right-handed rookie. Berken gave up four runs in five innings to suffer a 6-3 home loss to Oakland on Wednesday. He’s never faced Tampa Bay.