The Baltimore Orioles expected to be preparing for a playoff run in late September, but instead they are battling for third place in the American League East when the Tampa Bay Rays pay a visit for the second of a four-game set Friday night. The Orioles earned a 3-1 victory in the series opener Thursday and are 5 ½ games out in the race for the AL’s second wild card - one-half game behind the Rays - with just over a week to go.
Manny Machado belted a two-run homer for Baltimore in the victory while teammate Trey Mancini extended his career-best hitting streak to 11 games with a single Thursday as the Orioles won for just the third time in 15 contests. Ubaldo Jimenez will try to keep it going for Baltimore when he takes the mound Friday against fellow right-hander Alex Cobb, who pursues his career-high 12th victory. The Rays have gone just 4-9 since last reaching the .500 mark and scored two or fewer runs in six of their last seven losses after managing five hits Thursday. Infielder Daniel Robertson returned from the minors for the series opener to go 2-for-2 with a walk at shortstop for Tampa Bay and is expected to get plenty of playing time down the stretch.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), MASN2 (Baltimore)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.57)
Cobb gave up nine runs total in his last six starts, but managed just a 2-3 record during that stretch without completing more than six innings in any outing. The 29-year-old Boston native held Baltimore to one run and four hits over seven innings for a 5-1 victory on July 26 to improve to 5-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 career contests against the Orioles. Cobb, who has held Machado to 4-for-23 (two homers), owns a 4.74 ERA on the road as opposed to 2.46 at home.
Jimenez won for the first time in seven outings last time out when he limited the New York Yankees to one run on three hits over five innings with 10 strikeouts. It was the second double-figure strikeout performance for the 33-year-old Dominican Republic native this season and he owns a 3.27 ERA in three appearances this month. Evan Longoria is 7-for-22 with a pair of homers overall versus Jimenez, who is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in three games against the Rays in 2017.
1. Tampa Bay 1B-DH Lucas Duda is hitless in his last 17 at-bats and has worked just one walk in that stretch.
2. Baltimore SS Tim Beckham, acquired from the Rays at the trade deadline, could return to the lineup after sitting out the last two games due to dental work.
3. Rays SS Adeiny Hechavarria has not committed an error in his last 44 games, but was 0-for-11 in three contests before being rested Thursday.
PREDICTION: Rays 6, Orioles 2