The friendly confines of the Trop have been very friendly to the Rays over the last week. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After sweeping Boston in four games, the Tampa Bay Rays look to cap the first half of the season on a high note when they welcome the red-hot Baltimore Orioles into the Trop for a three-game series, starting Friday. The Orioles have won 10 straight ball games and inserted themselves into the AL Wildcard chase.

The Rays enter play at 49-40 on the season, nine games over .500 for the first time since the 61st game of the season 28 games ago. They are 13 games behind the Yankees for the top spot in the division, as well as 2.5 games up on the third-place Red Sox and Blue Jays (tied) in the AL East, and 2.5 games up in the AL Wildcard race.

Tampa Bay really stuck it to the Red Sox, tagging Boston’s vaunted pitching staff for 22 runs for an average of 5.5 runs per game. And while they were very opportunistic with runners in scoring position, having gone 15-for-37 (good for a .405 wRISP batting average), and plating seven two-out runs. And, they did all this without the benefit of the long ball, as Tampa Bay hit just one homer in the series (Taylor Walls on Wednesday). Speaking of Taylor Walls — the de facto shortstop while Wander Franco is on the shelf — he has hit safely in four of the last five games with five hits (including the aforementioned long ball), three runs batted in, and four runs scored. Nate Lowe also has been productive over the last week, slashing .227 BA/.320 OBP/.409 SLG/.729 OPS with a .322 wOBA and a 115 wRC+.

Beyond that, Francisco Mejía and Yandy Díaz stand to play prominent roles against the O’s. Mejía boasts a .618 xSLG against Baltimore’s right-handed hurlers, while Díaz maintains a .546 xSLG against same-handed hurlers.

The Orioles ran their win streak to 10 games after taking care of business against the Cubs. Baltimore is above .500 for the first time this late in the season since they were 71-71 on September 9, 2017. They are still at the bottom of the division, 17 games behind the Yankees for the top spot, but just 1.5 games back of the final AL Wildcard spot.

Baltimore’s strength lies within the pitching staff, which maintains a 3.90 ERA and 4.07 FIP overall (2.86 ERA and 3.12 FIP from the rotation over the last 14 days, and a 3.40 ERA and 4.08 FIP from the bullpen over the same stretch). That’s not to belittle the Rays in any way, after all, they’ve outperformed the Orioles from an offensive POV (110 wRC+ vs. 102 wRC+ over the last week), while theIR pitching hasn’t been too shabby either over the last two weeks — maintaining an overall 3.34 ERA and 3.79 FIP, with a 3.50 ERA and a 3.18 FIP from the starting rotation, and a 4.27 ERA and 3.19 FIP from the relief corps. If anything, Baltimore’s bullpen has overperformed the last two weeks while the Rays’ ‘pen has underperformed (at least as it relates to FIP).

Despite the recent misgivings against Baltimore this season, Tampa Bay enters play 5-4 against the Orioles, and 3-0 at the Trop.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Luis Patiño (1-0, 3.68 ERA at AAA), likely the bullpen on Saturday, and Corey Kluber (5-5, 3.58 ERA). Brandon Hyde will counter with Tyler Wells (7-4, 3.28 ERA), Dean Kremer (3-1, 2.15 ERA), and likely Jordan Lyles (6-7, 4.37 ERA).

Luis Patiño (oblique) will be reinstated from the 60-day Injured List to start Friday’s game against the Orioles. The right-hander made six rehab starts in June and early July but faced a setback earlier in the month due to a blister. However, he’s been facing hitters recently and will return to game action with the major-league club Friday. He’ll be facing a tough opponent in the Orioles, and Kevin Cash said that the right-hander won’t be stretched out during the start, although he could handle a fairly heavy workload after reaching 78 pitches in his most recent rehab outing with Triple-A Durham, where he went 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA and a 4.97 FIP, a 4.34 K/BB, and a 1.30 WHIP across 14.2 rehab innings. While Patiño could be viewed as a two-pitch pitcher (fastball and slider), he threw six changeups in his July 2 rehab start; offerings that averaged 14 inches of run. It will be interesting to see if he leans on this newfound weapon on Friday.

Tyler Wells allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three in four innings on Friday against the Angels. Wells gave up just three runs in 22 innings over his last four starts, although he was less effective on Friday. He gave up a three-run homer in the top of the third inning and was in line for the loss when he exited the game, but he came away with a no-decision after the Orioles mounted a late comeback. Friday’s start snapped a streak of five consecutive wins for Wells, but he’s had sustained success over the last month and a half. Overall, he maintains a 3.28 ERA and a 4.20 FIP, with a 2.70 K/BB, and a 1.05 WHIP across 79.2 innings. Wells is 0-1 with a 9.95 ERA in two starts (6.1 combined innings) against the Rays this season. Key Matchup: Harold Ramirez (1-4)


Dean Kremer allowed no runs on two hits while striking out seven and walking three over five innings against the Angels on Saturday. Kremer did well against the Angels’ offense, throwing 58 of 98 pitches for strikes (59% strike rate) and limiting Los Angeles to just five baserunners. Aside from his last outing against Texas, when he allowed five runs across 4.2 frames, Kremer has pitched well since he was called up June 5. Saturday’s outing was the fourth time in seven games that the right-hander has not allowed a run. Kremer maintains a 2.15 ERA and a 3.32 FIP, with a 2.50 K/BB, and a 1.25 WHIP across 37.2 innings on the season. He is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one start (6.0 innings) against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (2-3, 2 BB), Brett Phillips (1-4, 3B, RBI, 2 BB)

Corey Kluber got the start against Boston and struck out seven in six innings while allowing two runs on four hits and a walk on 88 pitches (52 strikes, 59% strike rate). Kluber faced the minimum through the first four frames, striking out five and eliminating the lone baserunner on a double-play ball. After allowing two singles, he gave up a two-run triple to Bobby Dalbec (that should have been caught by Brett Phillips if not for interference by Randy Arozarena, who also attempted to track down the deeply hit ball) with two outs in the fifth. The seven strikeouts were his most in a start since he recorded eight on May 16. Kluber now maintains a 3.58 ERA and 3.29 FIP, with a 1.09 WHIP, and a 5.64 K/BB across 88.0 innings on the season. He is 0-1 with a 2.63 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season.

Jordan Lyles allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in seven innings against the Cubs on Tuesday. Lyles settled down after permitting runs in each of the game’s first two innings to pitch into the seventh for the second time in four starts. The 31-year-old has now completed seven innings or allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last five turns, accumulating a 2.76 ERA across 32.2 innings. Overall, Lyles owns a 4.37 ERA ERA and a 4.14 FIP, with a 2.69 K/BB, and a 1.38 WHIP across 105 innings on the season. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in one start (5.0 innings) against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Christian Bethancourt (1-2), Ji-Man Choi (1-2, BB), Josh Lowe (2-3, 3B), Francisco Mejía (3-4, HR, 3 RBI), Brett Phillips (1-4, RBI)


— Brandon Lowe is expected to be activated from the 60-Day Injured List on Saturday. A roster move will be necessitated in order to add him to the active roster.

— In order to add Patiño to the active roster, the Rays optioned RHP Tommy Romero to Triple-A Durham. To make room for Patiño on the 40-man roster, C Mike Zunino (left shoulder inflammation) was moved to the 60-day IL. Also, LHP Ryan Yarbrough was added to taxi squad.