Three weeks ago, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Rays opened a weekend series at Camden Yards as co-AL East leaders.
That scenario will be repeated at Tropicana Field this weekend, although both teams will enter on losing streaks and Baltimore won't have Nick Markakis.
Markakis is headed to the disabled list for the first time for the slumping Orioles and will miss Friday night's matchup of left-handers David Price and Wei-Yin Chen.
Baltimore and Tampa Bay are atop the East with 29-22 records after starting a three-game set May 11 with 20-12 first-place marks. The Orioles won two of three, as Markakis went 4 for 10 with a homer and a team-high four RBIs.
The right fielder now faces surgery on a hamate fracture of his right wrist suffered in Tuesday's 8-6 loss at Toronto. He sat out his first game and Baltimore's season-high fifth straight defeat Wednesday, 4-1 to the Blue Jays.
Markakis is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.
"If you had told me that was what it was going to be, I would have signed up for it in blood," manager Buck Showalter told the Orioles' official website. "It's not that bad."
What has been bad is the Orioles' production at the plate during their skid. They have totaled 14 runs and struck out 49 times to increase their major league-high total to 430.
Showalter will have to decide who to replace Markakis with after rookie Ryan Flaherty started and had an RBI single Wednesday. Adam Jones went 0 for 2 with a walk and a hit by pitch as his career-high 20-game hitting streak ended.
Jones had his hand wrapped after the game but didn't consider the injury serious.
Tampa Bay also had Thursday off to regroup after scoring six runs while being swept at home in a three-game set by the Chicago White Sox. Rays starters had a 5.50 ERA in the series while the team batted .147.
"We're not really playing a high level of baseball right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "Too many mistakes on the field."
The injury-plagued Rays are missing top hitters Evan Longoria and Jeff Keppinger. B.J. Upton didn't help pick up the slack by going 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts against Chicago.
Price (6-3, 2.71 ERA) began his career by going 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his first five outings against the Orioles before he went 0-2 with a 4.05 ERA in four last year.
Jones is 3 for 20 against Price, who is wary of his first 2012 start against a Baltimore team that leads the AL with an 8-4 mark against left-handers.
"They've always had young talent, and that talent is getting experience over the last couple of years," Price, who is 0-1 in his last two starts despite posting a 1.29 ERA, told the Rays' official website. "Adam Jones is having a great year, so is Chris Davis, Matt Wieters. They're gaining experience, and it's showing."
Price is 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA in four home starts this year.
Chen (4-1, 3.31) will get his first look at the Rays. The rookie, who is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA on the road, yielded two runs over six innings Saturday and did not get a decision in a 4-3 home loss to Kansas City.
The Associated Press News Service
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