Two teams with recent offensive problems will clash when the Tampa Bay Rays visit the Baltimore Orioles to open an unusual five-game series with a doubleheader on Thursday.
The Orioles have won three of five games against the Rays this season, and the home team has won every time. This is the first five-game series in the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, with the postponed game from Aug. 27 added on to the original schedule. The Rays will bat last in the second game on Thursday.
The Rays will use Blake Snell (4-1, 3.23) against Baltimore’s Dean Kremer (1-0, 1.64) in the first game. The starters for the nightcap were still undetermined.
Since Aug. 24, Tampa Bay is batting an American League-worst .182 (33-for-181) with runners in scoring position. The Rays were 0-for-11 in that situation Wednesday in a 4-2, 10-inning road loss to the Washington Nationals. They were batting .284 with runners in scoring position through Aug. 23.
“Over the last 10 games, we haven’t been firing offensively,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve got to get it going and make a push for what we’re playing for. It’s not one guy. Multiple times we haven’t been able to capitalize. We’ll get on the road trip and turn it around offensively.”
Shortstop Willy Adames has struggled more than others. He has one hit in his past 18 at-bats and two hits in his past 32 at-bats, which comes on the heels of a 10-for-17 stretch.
Cash scoffed at the idea of giving a day off to Adames, whose average has dropped to .267 after he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Wednesday.
“He’s going to continue to play and fight through it,” Cash said. “What you’re seeing is a guy who is scuffling, and it seems like he’s down 0-2 (in the count) before he gets in the batter’s box. More than anything, he needs to find a hit or two. That’s going to make him feel better and make the momentum shift.”
Baltimore showed signs of breaking out of its offensive malaise in winning its three-game series against the Braves. The Orioles have lost six of their past eight games, and in their past seven games, they have scored only 23 runs — a number skewed by a 14-run outburst against Atlanta on Monday. The Orioles are 0-17 when they score three or fewer runs.
Baltimore shortstop Jose Iglesias has been on fire. Iglesias was 8-for-11 in the series with Atlanta, raising his batting average to .381.
Snell’s last start came on Sept. 11, when he beat Boston by going 5 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He received a no-decision when facing the Orioles on July 31, going just three innings and allowing three runs.
Snell is 2-2 with a 5.10 ERA in six career starts against the Orioles. He has 39 strikeouts over 30 innings in those outings.
Kremer will make his third major league start. In his second outing, Saturday in New York against the Yankees, he worked five innings and allowed one run on four hits and three walks, and he struck out seven. He has fanned seven in each of his first two games, both vs. the Yankees.
Kremer said, “I’m very critical of myself, so nothing is ever good enough. But my main goal is to go out there and compete and give our team a chance to win.”
Tampa Bay (31-18) remains in first place in the American League East. Baltimore (22-27) remains mathematically alive for one of the AL wild-card spots.
–Field Level Media