Ageless wonder Rich Hill will take the mound Saturday when the Tampa Bay Rays continue their three-game series against the visiting Baltimore Orioles in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The 41-year-old left-hander was named American League pitcher of the month for May and continued to impress last Saturday against Texas, allowing two hits over five scoreless innings.
“Rich was really, really good again,” manager Kevin Cash said. “The way he has been on this run of suppressing scoring has been really impressive.”
Hill has given up three total runs over his past seven starts, going 4-1 with a 0.68 ERA.
Tampa Bay’s starting rotation posted another strong outing in Friday’s 4-2 victory as Ryan Yarbrough tossed six strong innings.
Second baseman Brandon Lowe snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a two-run homer for the Rays, who moved a season-high 16 games over .500.
Lowe entered Friday hitting .188 with 76 strikeouts but had two hits after working with hitting coach Chad Mottola prior to the game.
Tampa Bay has won 21 of its past 26 games and boast the AL’s best record at 40-24.
Trey Mancini belted his 12th homer for Baltimore, which has lost all four meetings against the Rays this season.
Orioles outfielder Austin Hays was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts after missing the previous 15 games with a strained left hamstring.
Hays, who is hitting .244 with five home runs and 15 RBIs, returns to a Baltimore team that is 5-3 this month after winning a total of five games in May.
“I’m really proud of the guys and the way they handled everything,” Hays said. “Once June started, they were able to flip the script. They looked like a completely different ball team ever since. I’m excited to come back and join them and continue the momentum they’ve built.
Hays batted fifth on Friday and figures to be in the lineup against Hill (5-2, 3.05 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 14 career appearances (four starts) against the Orioles.
Hill is facing Baltimore for the second time this season after allowing one run over six frames in a 10-1 victory at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 20.
Baltimore will counter with Jorge Lopez (2-6, 5.30), who earned the win last Sunday against Cleveland, allowing three runs on four hits over five innings.
The 28-year-old right-hander has pitched at least five innings in four consecutive starts after doing so in just two of his first eight outings this season.
Lopez is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA in three career games (two starts) against Tampa Bay. He is 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in five road starts this season covering 25 1/3 innings.
The Orioles could use a lengthy outing from Lopez to give the team’s beleaguered bullpen a much-needed break.
One bright spot in the bullpen has been the performance of Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells, who has pitched eight straight scoreless innings this month with eight strikeouts over that stretch.
The Orioles are also optimistic about injury-plagued reliever Hunter Harvey, who made his season debut on June 4 and has not allowed a run in his past two appearances.
–Field Level Media