Preview: Rays face Baltimore in a key series

Rays face the Birds in Baltimore tonight through Wednesday.
Rays face the Birds in Baltimore tonight through Wednesday.

Tonight here at beautiful Oriole Park, at Camden Yards on the Baltimore inner harbor the Rays start a big three game series against the Birds. At the moment the Rays trail the AL East leading Red Sox by a game, meanwhile, the Orioles are in third place 4.5 games back.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter knows this is an important series for him. He pushed pitchers around to make sure that his best three arms would take the mound against the Rays. Tonight Tampa Bay will go with David Price with a record of 6-5 . But Price is  3-0, with a 3.28 era, in his last 7 starts at Camden Yards. He will face the Birds most consistent pitcher Chris Tilman 14-3, who also gets the most run production of any Baltimore pitcher at almost 5 runs per game.

Tuesday the match up will be Alex Cobb, 7-2, going for the Rays and Baltimore countering with Miguel Gonzalez at 8-5 and the series closes out Wednesday night. Tampa Bay will send Jeremy Hellickson at 10-6 to the mound to face the Birds Wei-Yin Chen, who is 6-6 on the season.

At this point it is all about the math for the Rays, the want to win the series, while Baltimore needs to win the series. Here is why as we use the math. If the Rays win the series, but don’t sweep it they gain a game on the Birds. If Baltimore wins the series, but don’t sweep, they also only gain a game on Tampa Bay.

So the pressure is on Baltimore at this point in the season, yes a series win helps them but to really gain ground they need a sweep this series. After the Rays leave town Baltimore hosts the Oakland A’s and once again Baltimore will need at least a series win only this time they will be using the back end of one of baseball’s most patched together pitching staffs.

Tillman is there ace and despite winning 14 games he is far from a top flight No.1, the Orioles win but hitting. Camden Yards in the summer is a real launching pad. If you can keep Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters in the park, you have a very good chance of winning.

Baltimore is still in the race because of their hitting and if the Rays pitchers can hit their spots then beating the Orioles becomes much easier. So as we sit here tonight at Camden Yards the key to winning is to keep the Birds at 2 runs or less, because if you do that Baltimore has a .210 winning percentage.

Finally the latest Baseball Prospectus rankings as of this morning, the Rays are given a 89.1 percent chance of making the AL Playoffs, while Baltimore is facing odds of only 23 percent. The Rays are in the position that winning series are key and playing at least .500 on the road and say .600 at home, the next month and a couple weeks should get them in the playoffs, it all in the math.