The Tampa Bay Rays will try to protect their razor-thin lead in the AL wild-card race by continuing their success against a fellow contender.
David Price will seek to provide another solid outing against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night while leading the Rays to their eighth win in the last 10 matchups.
After passing Texas for the top wild-card spot, Tampa Bay (83-69) dropped back into a tie for the two playoff berths after an 8-2 loss to the Rangers on Thursday. Four teams - including Baltimore (81-71) - remain within 3 1/2 games of the co-leaders, with Cleveland another half-game back.
The Orioles' chances of cutting their two-game deficit depend on whether they can end their recent struggles against the Rays. Price helped Tampa Bay win two of three in the latest matchup Aug. 19-21 by earning a 4-3 victory in the series opener.
Price (8-8, 3.42 ERA) gave up two runs despite allowing 10 hits over five innings in that game and is 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA in last seven starts against Baltimore.
"It's big. If they come in here and beat me up, that has them feeling good going against everybody else after me," Price told the team's website. "If I can come out here and throw the way I expect to, it might put a little doubt in their mind and give us some confidence. That's what we need."
The left-hander is also 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA in three home matchups with the Orioles but 0-3 with a 4.13 ERA in his last four starts. Price, though, has yielded two runs in each of his last two outings.
He was in line for the win when he exited Sunday's game in Minnesota after 6 1-3 innings, but the Rays bullpen couldn't hold on to a lead in a 6-4 defeat.
He'll face an Orioles team that had won three straight - including two games against AL East-leading Boston - before getting no-hit in the first six innings of a 3-1 loss Thursday.
"Who cares about this getting two out of three?" said outfielder Adam Jones, who matched a career high with his 32nd homer. "At this point in time, winning the series means nothing. We need wins. 'Good job getting the series' if this was June, but it's September. We need wins."
Jason Hammel (7-8, 5.12) will try to lead Baltimore to a victory while snapping a six-game losing streak. The right-hander has made only three starts since the All-Star break and had his first since coming back from the disabled list last Friday in Toronto.
Hammel, who had been dealing with an ailing forearm, gave up three runs and three hits over five innings against the Blue Jays but did not get a decision as Baltimore rallied for a 5-3 win. His teammates have given him one run over his last three starts.
Hammel is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in last two starts against the Rays but gave up two runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 2-1 loss at Tropicana Field on June 7.
Ben Zobrist is 5 for 7 with a home run and a double against Hammel this season but is hitting just .167 (6 for 36) in his last nine games.
Danny Valencia is 9 for 12 with two doubles lifetime against Price and Matt Wieters is 5 for 8 with three doubles and a home run in their matchups this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved