The Tampa Bay Rays took another step toward the American League East title Friday with a win over the host Baltimore Orioles. Now, they want to keep going.
A 2-1 victory over Baltimore lowered the Rays’ magic number to five heading into another matchup with the Orioles on Saturday night. The contest will be the fourth of an unusual five-game series, and Tampa Bay has taken the first three.
Rays right-hander Charlie Morton (1-2, 5.14 ERA), looking for his first win since returning from the injured list, will make the start against Orioles right-hander Jorge Lopez (2-0, 5.23).
Morton was sidelined for three weeks due to shoulder inflammation before coming back Sept. 2. In his subsequent three starts, he went two innings, five innings and 4 1/3 innings, making it doubtful he will get deep into the game Friday.
Morton holds a 3-2 record with a 3.38 ERA in six career games (all starts) against Baltimore. However, he has not faced the Orioles this year.
Lopez is coming off his best outing of the year, when he beat the visiting Atlanta Braves in the series opener Monday. He pitched a season-high seven innings and gave up just one run on five hits and two walks. He struck out three in Baltimore’s 14-1 victory.
Lopez has faced Tampa Bay once this year, a scoreless, one-inning relief appearance on Aug. 26. The only other time he opposed the Rays, he tossed five innings of one-run ball in 2018.
The Rays received bad news on the injury front Friday when they put Austin Meadows on the 10-day injured list due to a left oblique strain. It’s likely, though, that Meadows could be out much longer.
Meadows left Game 1 of the Thursday doubleheader at Baltimore when he felt the problem. After seeing Meadows was sore Friday, the Rays made the move, replacing him on the roster with left-hander Sean Gilmartin.
“It’s pretty severe, but it could be worse,” said Meadows, who is hitting .205 with four home runs and 13 RBIs. “We’ll see what these next few weeks hold and go from there.”
Manager Kevin Cash acknowledged that Meadows will be sidelined an extended period.
“We’re going to have to play really, really well to see him at any point the rest of the (year),” manager Kevin Cash said.
Meadows said, “I don’t want to rush. I want to make sure I’m good to go when I’m able to get back. I don’t have a timeframe for it. Hopefully, I can get back this year.”
For the Orioles, the pitching has been much better lately, but the hitting has failed. Baltimore scored one run or none in seven of the past 10 contests, failing to come up with big hits at the right time.
All the Orioles’ offense Friday came on an Austin Hays solo homer in the fourth inning. Hays also sees the struggles and wants the team to break out of its funk.
“Hitting is contagious,” he said. “We all know that. I think some of the games, we’re just one swing or one play away.”
–Field Level Media