A recent hot stretch against some of the league's traditional heavyweights has helped the surprising Baltimore Orioles move to the top of the division.
Proving they belong in the same class as the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers is their next hurdle.
Baltimore looks to end an ugly six-game losing streak to the Rangers on Tuesday night when the teams continue their series at Camden Yards.
After winning five of six on a trip to Boston and New York - including a wild 9-6, 17-inning victory Sunday over the Red Sox - the Orioles (19-10) hoped to overcome fatigue and win their sixth straight Monday night in the opener of this four-game set.
Instead they absorbed their sixth consecutive loss to the Rangers, falling 14-3 as Brandon Snyder homered and drove in a career-high six runs in his first game against his former team. Michael Young also went deep and Josh Hamilton added his league-best 10th home run to help Texas (19-10) tie Baltimore and Tampa Bay for the AL's best record.
Snyder, who spent parts of the last two seasons with Baltimore, entered Monday with five RBIs in 27 career games. He was acquired from the Orioles in January for cash considerations.
"I'm probably going to have to wake up tomorrow and read something to make sure it happened,'' Snyder said. "It's a special night, being back in Baltimore, but the biggest thing is having my family there.''
Texas has outscored Baltimore 60-15 during its series winning streak, averaging 14.3 hits. Young is 14 for 24 with seven RBIs in those six victories.
The Orioles got homers from Robert Andino and Wilson Betemit on Monday in only their third loss in 14 games. J.J. Hardy had half of his team's six hits, giving him eight in the last two contests.
Asked if the defeat could have a long-term effect, manager Buck Showalter said, "That's not something our guys or I'm going to dwell on. It's part of what we do for a living. You get thrown some self-inflicted things that you have to deal with and nobody's going to feel sorry for you. Hopefully get a good night's rest and turn the page.''
Jake Arrieta (2-2, 3.52 ERA) will try to help the Orioles rebound as he looks to follow up one of the best performances of his career. The right-hander was brilliant in a 5-0 win at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, tossing eight innings of five-hit ball and matching a career best with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Arrieta allowed nine runs over 10 innings in his previous two starts - both losses.
He pitched well in his first two starts against the Rangers - both in 2010 - before he was tagged for a career-high eight runs and six hits in 3 1-3 innings of a 13-1 loss April 9, 2011.
Texas counters with Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.81), whose last appearance was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Feliz allowed a career-high six walks, four runs and four hits in five-plus innings Tuesday in Toronto before leaving without a decision in an 8-7 loss. The right-hander gave up two home runs in a game for the first time since April 26, 2010.
"The main thing was he just couldn't get the ball down,'' manager Ron Washington said. "He kept it elevated.''
Feliz converted all five save opportunities against Baltimore as Texas' closer but has a 6.43 ERA in seven appearances.
- Baltimore Orioles
- the Orioles
- Brandon Snyder