Mike Zunino hit another long blast in Baltimore on Friday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

Tampa Bay scored three early runs, then did what they have done all season long — rattle off three late runs against the opposing bullpen — as the Rays defeated the Orioles once again, this time 6-3.

At 80-48 on the season, the Rays enter play 32-games above .500 and four games up on the Yankees in the division. They became the first team in the American League to win 80 games. They’ve also won five consecutive games, and are 16-1 against Baltimore — the most regular-season wins Tampa Bay has had against any opponent.

Shane McClanahan got the start Friday and allowed two runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out four across six innings. Starting on extra rest, McClanahan was very efficient over the first three frames, throwing just 30 pitches. However, the left-hander got into a jam in the fourth inning after Trey Mancini lined a one-out single to right. Then, with two outs and a full count, Austin Hays hit a belt-high slider over the wall in center, making it a one-run contest. Ramon Urias followed with a slow grounder past McClanahan for an infield single before Pedro Severino hit a ground ball double that bounced off the bag at third. He was able to strike Jahmai Jones out looking to keep the lead, yet he threw 26 pitches in the frame. Even so, it was the only damage McClanahan surrendered. While he matched his lowest strikeout total of the season, McClanahan was able to limit the run production against a struggling Orioles ball club. Since the All-Star Break, the lefty maintains a 2.90 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP across 40.1 innings.

Tampa Bay scored three two-out runs in the first inning against Matt Harvey, yet went dormant until left-hander Tanner Scott entered in the contest in the seventh.

After Harvey struck out the first two batters of the game, the Rays rallied, forcing the right-hander to throw 36 pitches in the frame. Wander Franco walked — extending his on-base streak to 27 games — before Austin Meadows lined a base hit into center, putting runners on the corners. Yandy Díaz put the Rays on the board when he lined a single to left. After Joey Wendle slapped a base hit to left, loading the bases, before Manuel Margot slashed a two-run single to center, capping the early rally.

Yet, Harvey struck out Kevin Kiermaier to end the frame, beginning a stretch where he retired the final 16 batters he faced. Harvey pitched to contact over that stretch (striking out just two), as the Orioles made some sharp plays behind him.

After Harvey exited the contest, Margot started Tampa Bay’s second rally when he was hit by a one-out pitch. Kiermaier worked a full count and walked before Gator Mike Zunino blasted a 453-foot three-run homer to center for a four-run advantage. Zunino now has 27 homers, while Tampa Bay’s backstop tandem has combined for 33 home runs and 82 RBI on the season.

Chris Mazza followed McClanahan and threw the last three innings, allowing just a Cedric Mullins HR to earn his first big-league save. He’s the 12th different Ray to earn a save, tying the franchise record set in the truncated 2020 season.

The New What Next

Michael Wacha (2-4, 5.88 ERA) will get the start on Saturday, pitching opposite of left-hander John Means (5-6, 3.50 ERA).

Michael Wacha allowed four runs (two earned) on eight hits over five innings last Friday against the White Sox. He struck out nine without walking a batter on 100 pitches (69 strikes, 69% strike rate). His nine whiffs tied a season-high for the right-handed hurler. Wacha hasn’t pitched more than five innings in any of his seven starts since the All-Star Break, but the tight leash hasn’t led to better results as he maintains a 7.64 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, a 7.6 K/BB, and a 2.5 HR/9 in 33 innings over that stretch. In three combined starts against Baltimore this season, Wacha has allowed nine runs on 18 hits (including four home runs) and two walks while striking out just four.

John Means allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five across six innings against Atlanta on Sunday. Means had allowed 13 runs (10 earned) in 8.1 innings across his last two starts, although he fared slightly better on Sunday. In seven starts since the All-Star Break, the southpaw has performed to a 5.84 ERA and a 5.79 FIP, with a 1.35 WHIP in 37 innings. Means is 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in four starts against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (6-10, 2 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Yandy Díaz (4-15, 2 2B, HR, RBI), Wander Franco (2-8, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (5-13, 2B, RBI), Manuel Margot (5-10, 2B, RBI, BB), Joey Wendle (2-7)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.

Rays 8/28/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Arozarena LF
  2. Cruz DH
  3. Franco SS
  4. Díaz 3B
  5. Lowe 2B
  6. Margot RF
  7. Luplow 1B
  8. Kiermaier CF
  9. Mejía C
  10. Wacha RHP

Noteworthiness

— The Rays are expected to make another roster move on Saturday. Mazza was optioned after Friday’s contest. Jordan Luplow (strained left ankle) has been activated from the 10-day Injured List. Luplow went 4-for-5 with a homer in a Florida Complex League game on Thursday and was in Baltimore last night.

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