The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles have the look of two teams again poised to contend for the postseason in 2013.
After the Rays won in dramatic fashion to even the series, the teams conclude their entertaining set Thursday at Tropicana Field.
Baltimore overcame a one-run deficit with five runs in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 7-4 season-opening victory over Tampa Bay. The Orioles blew a 4-0 lead Wednesday then tied it in the ninth before Matt Joyce homered in the bottom of the frame to give the Rays an 8-7 win.
"It was entertaining for most people here,' Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "Didn't like the way it ended, but good things happened. We'll dwell on those.
"I liked the way our guys kept fighting back.'
Both clubs hope to sustain the same kind of fight that helped generate success in 2012.
Baltimore snapped a string of 14 straight losing seasons by winning 93 games and earning an AL wild-card spot while Tampa Bay won at least 90 games for a third consecutive season despite falling short of its third straight postseason appearance.
"To get the first win out of the way, and to have it in dramatic fashion kind of seems to be the Rays way,' said Joyce, who was 1 for 14 with five strikeouts in his previous six games versus Baltimore before going 2 for 2 on Wednesday.
"We're going to have fun this year.'
Ben Zobrist added two more hits and two more RBIs, giving him four of each in the first two games. Teammate Desmond Jennings is 4 for 8 with two doubles.
Tampa Bay prevailed despite closer Fernando Rodney, one of the keys to the Dominican Republic's run to the World Baseball Classic title, blowing the save by allowing a run for the first time since Aug. 14.
"If we play the game properly, we'll win a lot of games together,' Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Maddon on Thursday will hand the ball to Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona. He signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay and beat out Jeff Niemann for the final spot in the rotation despite going 0-2 with a 5.33 ERA in seven spring training appearances.
Hernandez, who won 19 games for Cleveland in 2007, went 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA for the Indians last season when he was suspended three weeks by the club for age and identity fraud. The right-hander hopes a fresh start with Tampa Bay will help revive his career.
"I'm very, very happy to be with that group, that rotation," Hernandez told the Rays' official website. "I'll continue to work hard and throw strikes. Keep the ball on the ground. Try not to overthrow."
He is 2-2 with a 7.06 ERA in five starts against the Orioles since 2008.
Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis is 3 for 11 with a double against Hernandez, but he has seven RBIs in this series to become the first Oriole in franchise history to drive in at least three runs in the first two games of a season.
Davis went 4 for 4 with four RBIs Wednesday and homered for the second straight game. He's homered in eight of his last nine regular season games overall and four of five at Tropicana Field.
"We're just going to roll it up there (Thursday)," Maddon told the Rays' official website. "Listen, he's on everything right now, they all look good. They've got a bunch of guys looking good right now. They're no fun right now."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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