While the second-place Tampa Bay Rays continue to chase the AL East leaders, the Baltimore Orioles aren’t far behind.
The Rays try to distance themselves from the Orioles as these division rivals open a three-game set Monday night at Camden Yards.
Tampa Bay (70-52) has followed a season-worst six-game losing streak by winning four of five, including Sunday’s 2-1, 10-inning victory over Toronto. Evan Longoria hit his team-leading 24th homer before Jose Lobaton came through with a game-winning shot in extras.
“Walk-off homer, run the bases like that, is unbelievable,” said Lobaton, who also delivered a walk-off triple in Friday’s 5-4 win. “It’s something that you want to do all the time. Hopefully it’s not the last one.”
Sitting just behind division-leading Boston, Tampa Bay now turns its attention to the Orioles (67-56). The Rays, who have hit .307 in taking five of the last six in the season series, are 3 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore.
“This time of year, you definitely want to win as many series as you can, especially when you’re at home,” Orioles All-Star first baseman Chris Davis said. “Every game is important down the stretch.”
Davis went 4 for 5 with his major league-leading 45th homer as Baltimore beat Colorado 7-2 on Sunday. Adam Jones, who also went deep, posted his second consecutive three-hit effort.
“When those guys get rolling, sometimes you just hope they hit it at somebody,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Davis and Jones. “Most middles of the order in this league are tough to handle, and that middle of the order is about as good as anybody’s. When they’re swinging the bat well, it’s going to be tough to get through it.”
The Orioles will try to stay hot against Rays starter David Price (6-5, 3.28 ERA), who is 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA since the beginning of July. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner had surrendered three earned runs during a four-start stretch spanning 32 1-3 innings before yielding four in seven innings Wednesday in a 5-4 walkoff victory over Seattle.
“I wasn’t able to make pitches,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing, but it’s what I didn’t do as well tonight, especially with two outs, and that’s how innings start.”
Price has mostly had his way against the Orioles, going 6-2 with a 2.60 ERA over 14 career starts. Jones is 5 for his last 29 with nine strikeouts versus Price, and Nick Markakis is 5 for his last 24.
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven career outings in Baltimore. He was, however, hit hard during his most recent visit, yielding five runs in six innings in a 10-6 defeat April 18.
The Orioles counter with Chris Tillman (14-3, 3.70), who ranks among the major league leaders in wins. He has limited opponents to a .222 average in winning six consecutive home starts, and Baltimore has won 13 of his last 15 overall.
The right-hander allowed two runs in six innings Wednesday and was in line for a fifth straight winning decision before Jim Johnson blew the save in a 5-4, 14-inning loss at Arizona.
Two of Tillman’s three losses have come against Tampa Bay, which has taken him deep five times in three starts this year. He is 2-5 with a 4.77 ERA in 10 outings in the series.
Longoria has hit Tillman hard, going 8 for his last 16 with three homers and two doubles. Ben Zobrist also has three homers against him, but he’s 5 for 26.