The best road record in the majors is a big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays appear primed for their second postseason appearance in team history.
Three visits to Baltimore have certainly aided that cause.
After opening a nine-game road trip with another victory over the Orioles, the Rays look to set a franchise record in road wins Saturday night while improving to 7-1 at Camden Yards.
Tampa Bay (83-51) is 1 1/2 games behind first-place New York in the AL East, but it has a seven-game edge on Boston in the wild-card race in part because of its 40-25 record on the road.
The Rays won 40 road games in 2008 en route to their first division title, a single-season club record they matched with a 4-1 victory Friday night.
They’ve scored 49 runs while winning six of seven at Baltimore - often sparked by Carl Crawford(notes). The All-Star outfielder had three hits and an RBI on Friday, improving to 10 for 21 with three doubles, two triples and a homer at Camden Yards in 2010.
Tampa Bay’s James Shields(notes) (13-11, 4.73 ERA) will be looking to win his fifth consecutive start at Baltimore as he takes the mound. The right-hander has never lost at Camden Yards, going 4-0 with a 3.04 ERA in eight starts.
Shields has also posted a 2.75 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 19 2-3 innings while winning his last three starts overall.
“This organization has given me the opportunity to be able to pitch as long as I have here and hopefully I get a ton more,” Shields told the Rays’ official website. “It definitely means a lot, but my focus right now is to go to the playoffs and win a World Series.”
Seven of his wins have come against the Orioles, his most against any opponent, but Shields’ most recent loss came against Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie(notes) (8-13, 3.94 ERA), who allowed two hits in six innings of a 5-0 win over Tampa Bay on Aug. 13.
“I pitched well, but I can’t say it’s the best I’ve thrown this year,” Guthrie said. “It’s an indication of where we are as a team.”
The right-hander has gone 5-3 with a 2.51 ERA since the All-Star break, helping Baltimore (49-86) improve its dismal season.
The AL-worst Orioles are 17-13 since manager Buck Showalter took over Aug. 3, but Friday’s defeat was their third straight - their longest skid under Showalter. They were 0 for 6 with men in scoring position as their season average in those situations slipped to .234 - 29th in the majors.
“I kept hoping we would put something together,” Showalter said. “The key to the game is we scored one run.”
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