While their focus remains winning the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays also wouldn’t mind strengthening their grip on a wild-card spot.
A seventh win in eight meetings against the Baltimore Orioles would help in both races.
Tampa Bay looks to make it five consecutive wins at Camden Yards when these division rivals continue a three-game set Tuesday night.
A season-high six-game losing streak earlier this month prevented the Rays (71-52) from overtaking Boston for the division lead, but they’ve rebounded to win five of six and are within one game of the Red Sox.
Even a shaky performance from David Price wasn’t enough to cool Tampa Bay, which held on for a 4-3 win in Monday’s series opener. Price won his fourth straight decision despite allowing 10 hits and two walks in five innings.
“That’s why he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. He knows how to get out of jams like that,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. “When he needs a strikeout, he knows how to get it.”
Price was assisted by a Baltimore offense that went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left a season-high 15 on base.
“We got a good pitcher out of the game in the fifth inning and put a lot of good at-bats up against Price and just couldn’t quite break it open,” said Matt Wieters, who had three of his team’s 15 hits and fell a triple shy of the cycle.
Homers from Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce helped the Rays end a five-game road skid and win for the 14th time in their last 18 overall against AL East opponents.
Longoria is batting .319 (15 for 47) with four homers and 11 extra-base hits in his last 12 games after hitting .174 with seven extra-base hits over his previous 33 contests.
Wieters is 15 for 45 with four of his 18 homers and 12 RBIs in the season series. He’s a career .337 hitter with 14 home runs in 68 games versus Tampa Bay.
That includes a 2-for-5 mark and a homer against Alex Cobb (7-2, 2.94 ERA).
This will be Cobb’s second start since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list. The right-hander limited Seattle to one run and three hits over five innings in a 7-1 win Thursday in his first big league appearance since being concussed by a line drive June 15.
Cobb went 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts against the Orioles last season, but he lasted only 4 2-3 innings in his lone appearance at Camden Yards on Sept. 12.
He’ll be opposed by Miguel Gonzalez (8-5, 3.84), who seeks his first victory in a month. After posting a 5.56 ERA in his previous two starts, Gonzalez was much more effective in his past two outings. He allowed three runs over six innings at San Diego on Aug. 7, then gave up two runs in seven frames at Arizona last Tuesday and stood to get the win before Jim Johnson’s blown save.
Though he’s 5-1 with a 4.18 ERA in nine home starts, Gonzalez was tagged for a career-worst nine runs - four earned - over 3 2-3 innings in his last outing there, an 11-0 loss to Houston on July 31.
Since getting hit hard in his first meeting with the Rays, Gonzalez has gone 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in the last five starts.
Longoria is 4 for 11 with a homer lifetime against him, while Jose Molina is 3 for 5 with a home run this season.