Orioles-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles set themselves up nicely to catch Tampa Bay by pulling within two games of the Rays at the start of the series.

After two days in Tampa Bay, they've fallen into a severe hole in the chase for the AL's second wild-card spot.

Trying to remain relevant in a packed wild-card race, the Orioles look to avoid dropping the first three of a four-game set with the Rays on Sunday.

The Rays (85-69) have moved four games clear of the Orioles and are atop the AL wild-card standings, but still need to fend off Cleveland, Texas, Kansas City and the New York Yankees.

"We're in a wild-card chase. We're trying to get into the playoffs," Rays starter Alex Cobb told MLB.com after Saturday's 5-1 win. "I don't think anybody in this clubhouse needs added motivation for that. It's nice getting on a roll and playing good, and that's kind of what happens after these outings."

The Orioles (81-73), having now lost three in a row with eight to play, send Scott Feldman (5-4, 3.51 ERA) to the mound in a game they desperately need.

The right-hander, who hasn't pitched against the Rays since being traded from the Chicago Cubs in early July, has fared well against Tampa Bay in his career, going 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in five starts.

Feldman has also been stellar on the mound since Aug. 12, going 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA in seven outings. He was, however, a bit shaky in Boston on Tuesday, yielding a career-high six walks, but only gave up two hits and two runs in a game Baltimore would win 3-2.

While the matchup seems to favor Feldman, facing Roberto Hernandez (6-13, 4.89) also seems to bode well for the Orioles.

Scheduled to start for the first time since Aug. 27, Hernandez is 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA in his last three starts. He is also is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA and .607 opponent slugging percentage in three starts against the Orioles this season.

Slugger Chris Davis is 3 for 5 with two home runs against Hernandez in 2013, while Adam Jones is 5 for 8 with a homer and double.

Balanced with what Rays pitching has done to the Orioles the last two days, those numbers will be approached with a little more caution.

Twelve Rays pitchers have held the Orioles to 17 for 94 (.181) in the first two games of the series with three extra-base hits. The only series this year the Orioles have hit worse was the Boston series (.171) immediately preceding their trip to Tampa Bay.

Still, Orioles manager Buck Showalter thought Saturday's inability to reach base had more to do with Cobb, who took a three-hit shutout into the ninth, than a hangover from Friday's 18-inning marathon.

"I think it was more Cobb than anything,'' Showalter said.

The Rays aren't exactly locked in at the plate either, going 21 for 94 (.223) in the series.

Rookie Wil Myers followed up Friday's 0-for-8 performance, which made him the first Tampa Bay player to go hitless in eight or more at-bats in one game, with an 0-for-4 Saturday.

He might want to ask teammate David DeJesus for some advice before Sunday. DeJesus played with Feldman in Chicago for the first half of the season and is 6 for 11 lifetime against him with six walks and a home run.

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