The Baltimore Orioles appear poised to show the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the AL East that they expect to contend for a division title again in 2013.
Looking to build on a season-opening victory, the Orioles continue their series with the Rays on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.
Baltimore snapped a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons by winning 93 games and earning a wild-card spot in 2012, but the team is only focused on the present.
"Last season is over, and everybody in the clubhouse has moved on to this year," said catcher Matt Wieters, who went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer in a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Adam Jones had a go-ahead, two-run double and Chris Davis hit a three-run shot in the Orioles' five-run seventh inning off reliever Jake McGee, who replaced reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price to start the frame.
"(Tuesday) starts a long journey together, and I'm curious as everybody else to see where it takes us," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
"The season wouldn't have ended if we lost (Tuesday), and it wouldn't end if we lose (Wednesday), or if we win. That's what I keep challenging our guys about. This is a great group for staying in the moment, staying in reality."
Showalter hands the ball to Wei-Yin Chen, who went 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA in 32 starts during an impressive 2012 rookie season. The left-hander battled through fatigue, posting a 5.34 ERA over his final 10 regular-season starts and going 0-4 in the last seven, but he allowed one earned run in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the division series.
"I feel stronger this year," Chen told the Orioles' official website during spring training. "I feel really good about the season."
Chen went 1-3 in five starts against the Rays but had a 2.97 ERA. His teammates scored four runs with him on the mound in those contests.
Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist hit .467 (7 for 15) with a home run against Chen.
Zobrist went 2 for 3 with a homer and two RBIs on Tuesday for the Rays, who have won at least 90 games in three straight seasons and four of five.
"I think we did a lot of really good things (Tuesday)," manager Joe Maddon said. "Our defense was fantastic. ... David getting through six innings without having his best stuff and coming out of the game at 100 pitches with a 3-2 lead. ... Those were nice things. They just got us in one inning."
Scheduled Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson was sixth in the AL last season with a 3.10 ERA, but he finished 10-11 despite going 4-0 through his first eight starts. A big reason for the sub-.500 record was his 3.86 average runs of support, third-worst in the league.
Hellickson, though, completed seven innings only six times in 31 starts.
"That's what I want him to learn how to do, get deeper into games, how to get deeper into games, how to utilize your pitches to do that," Maddon told the Rays' official website.
The right-hander went 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA in six starts against the Orioles in 2012.
Three of Jones' nine hits in 28 at_bats versus Hellickson have left the park. Davis, 5 for 15 against him, has homered in seven of his last eight regular-season games overall.
The Associated Press News Service
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