The Tampa Bay Rays have hit a rough patch with six losses in eight games.
Facing the Baltimore Orioles right now isn’t necessarily going to help them shake that slump, either.
Coming off a disappointing road trip, the Rays return to Tropicana Field on Friday night looking to make up ground in the AL East with the first of three games against the Orioles.
After closing a homestand with two losses to Minnesota, Tampa Bay (69-45) was swept in Toronto for its first five-game skid of the season. The Rays rebounded with two wins in Detroit before failing to complete the sweep with Wednesday’s 3-2 loss.
Despite the 2-6 stretch, Tampa Bay is only two games behind the AL East-leading Yankees and four ahead of Boston in the wild-card race.
“Our standards are set high,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We are aiming to win a division and go deep into the postseason, so we want to win every game.”
Maddon will be happy to get back home where his club has won 14 of 18. The Rays have posted a 2.96 ERA during that span compared to a 4.68 mark in their last 18 road games.
Tampa Bay is 16-5 at home versus the Orioles since 2008 and won two of three at Tropicana Field against Baltimore (40-75) in April.
The Orioles team the Rays faced then, however, has a different look now.
Most notable is new manager Buck Showalter, who has guided the club to eight wins in 10 games since taking over for Juan Samuel.
“I’ve liked their personnel a lot,” Maddon told the Rays’ official website. “Now they’ve got Roberts back and they’ve got (Matt) Wieters back. They’ve got (Luke) Scott back. That’s three major offensive players. Their biggest concern has been their pitching, and their pitching has picked up, too.”
No Baltimore pitcher has picked it up more lately than Jeremy Guthrie(notes) (6-11, 4.04 ERA), who looks to win three straight starts for the first time in two years. The right-hander has been outstanding in five outings since the All-Star break, going 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA. He has walked three and struck out 21 in that span.
He has had quality starts in five of six career outings at Tampa Bay but is 0-4 with a 4.84 ERA.
The Rays counter with James Shields(notes) (10-10, 4.91), who became only the eighth pitcher in the modern era to surrender six homers in a game in Saturday’s 17-11 loss at Toronto. Bidding to win his fourth consecutive start, the right-hander allowed eight runs and nine hits - all for extra bases - in four innings.
“I’ve forgotten about it,” Shields said. “I threw a bullpen and I’m exactly where I need to be. So you kind of forget about it and move on.”
Shields, who gave up five home runs in six outings before Saturday, is 7-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 17 starts against Baltimore.