With the Orioles and Rays battling to stay in the AL East and wild card races, every game is important at this stage in the season. They open a three-game series Friday with Tampa Bay a -154 home favorite on the MLB odds at BetOnline with a total of 7.
What You Need To Know
Tampa Bay and Baltimore have nearly identical records and thus one would presume the same outlook for the rest of the season: try and improve the roster before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and either catch the Yankees in the AL East or grab an AL wild card spot. The Orioles seem like they are definitely going to try. They have been rumored to be looking for outfield help. You hear names like Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez or San Diego's Justin Upton. Baltimore also could use another starting pitcher, but then who can't? Johnny Cueto has been talked about as a target. Perhaps the O's could put enough of a package together to get Bruce and Cueto. The problem is that Baltimore's top two prospects in a weak farm system, pitchers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, have been shut down due to arm trouble. Baltimore might give up Kevin Gausman, however.
The Yankees are certainly there for the taking as they have plenty of flaws and may be quiet ahead of the deadline with their new frugal approach. But the Rays just don't have the payroll to add a big-name player like one of those listed above. Plus they covet prospects -- they have to because Tampa Bay can't afford to sign any top free agents. More likely, Tampa is just going to wait on the returns of starting pitcher Drew Smyly and outfielder Desmond Jennings from injury in early August as their "moves." Maybe the club makes a small deal.
The Orioles lead 5-4. Travis Snider leads Orioles regulars with a .333 average against the Rays this season and has three RBIs. All-Star outfielder Adam Jones is 6-for-27 with a double and four RBIs. Chris Davis is 5-for-24 with a homer and two RBIs. Steve Pearce is 4-for-23 with two homers and five RBIs, but he was placed on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a left oblique strain. And All-Star third baseman Manny Machado is 5-for-30 with five runs scored, two homers and four RBIs against Tampa. For the Rays, Brandon Guyer leads with a .444 average against the Orioles in 18 at-bats. David DeJesus is 7-for-22 with a solo homer. Logan Forsythe is 8-for-30 with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs. Steven Souza, who came off the DL earlier this week, is 7-for-33 with three homers, six RBIs and four runs scored. And Evan Longoria is 5-for-26 with a homer, four RBIs and six runs scored.
Baltimore starts presumed ace Chris Tillman (7-7, 4.96 ERA), although he hadn't pitched like a No. 1 often this season until lately. In his past four starts, he has allowed just four earned runs over 25.2 innings with 18 strikeouts, three walks and no dingers allowed. He outdueled the Tigers' David Price last time out, allowing only a hit over eight innings in easily Tillman's best start of the season. Tillman is 4-3 with a 4.56 ERA on the road this season. The Orioles are 4-1 at sportsbooks in Tillman's past five vs. Tampa. Against the Rays this year, he is 1-2 with a 3.93 ERA in three starts. Rays batters are hitting .246 off him in 18.1 innings with two homers. Longoria is a career .375 hitter off Tillman with six homers, nine RBIs and three doubles in 40 at-bats. Souza is 3-for-9 with a homer and three RBIs. James Loney struggles against Tillman, going just 4-for-27. So does Kevin Kiermaier, who is 1-for-12 with four strikeouts.
It's All-Star right-hander Chris Archer (9-7, 2.73 ERA) for Tampa Bay. Perhaps the All-Star break came at a good time for him as Archer was bombed for nine runs and 12 hits over six innings in his final pre-break start in Kansas City. He was much better Sunday in Toronto, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings, although the Rays lost his fourth straight outing. In 15 of his 20 starts this year, he has held the opposition to two runs or fewer. The Rays have lost five straight series openers under Archer, who is 3-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 home starts in 2015. He is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts overall vs. the Orioles this year, as they are hitting .261 off him with three homers in 11.2 innings. Davis is 3-for-8 with a double, homer and four RBIs career off Archer. Machado is 4-for-14 with two RBIs.
MLB Picks: I realize Archer hasn't had much success vs. Baltimore this season, but I still like him at home for my MLB picks. Certainly go 'under' the total at BetOnline with Tillman's resurgence. The 'under' is 6-1 in the past seven meetings. It is 4-1 in Tillman's past five on the road.