Bright spots have been hard to come by for the Baltimore Orioles, who look to avoid a sweep of their three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Baltimore set a club record with its 14th consecutive road loss on Saturday. Brandon Lowe lifted Tampa Bay to a 5-4 victory with two hits and two RBIs.
The Orioles have lost 11 of their last 12 meetings against Tampa Bay, including all five this season.
One reason for optimism has been the play of catcher Austin Wynns, who hit his first career grand slam in Saturday’s loss.
The 30-year-old Wynns, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on May 31, is 6-for-15 with two homers in his career against the Rays. He could receive another start in the series finale.
“He’s only had a few starts, but the starts he’s been back there, I thought he’s caught the ball well, he’s done a nice job behind the plate and he’s going to continue getting opportunities behind the plate,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
The Orioles face another tough test against Tampa Bay, which has won 22 of its last 27 games and boast the American League’s best record at 41-24.
The Rays are planning on a bullpen game with Michael Wacha (1-1, 4.54 ERA) on the mound to start.
Wacha has pitched three or fewer innings in each of his last five appearances, including last Sunday against Texas. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two career starts versus Baltimore.
Left-handed rookie Josh Fleming is expected to serve as the bulk reliever following Wacha.
The 25-year-old Fleming last pitched on June 4, when he allowed five runs on 10 hits over seven innings in a 5-4 loss to Texas.
Fleming, who is making his first appearance against Baltimore, owns a 2.48 ERA in six games (three starts) at home this season.
Baltimore starter Bruce Zimmermann (4-3, 4.83) won his second straight start last Tuesday, allowing two runs and two hits in five innings with seven strikeouts against the New York Mets.
The 26-year-old left-hander has surrendered a total of five runs with 20 strikeouts in his last three starts covering 15 1/3 innings.
Zimmermann made his major league debut against Tampa Bay on Sept. 17, 2020, permitting five runs over three-plus innings.
The Rays have received a spark in the last two games from Lowe, who snapped a 0-for-16 skid with a two-run homer in Friday’s 4-2 victory.
Lowe entered the series hitting .188 but has raised his average 12 points with four hits from the leadoff spot in his last two games.
“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in Brandon, and Brandon’s got a lot of confidence in himself,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s a big, big part of our team, and the last thing we’re going to do is run from him.”
Tampa Bay sits a season-high 17 games over .500 and is expected to activate first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the injured list as soon as Monday. Choi has been out since June 2 with a left groin strain.
–Field Level Media