American League Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, June 3rd (All times eastern)
Baltimore Orioles (30-23) at Tampa Bay Rays (30-23), 1:40 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Baltimore - Jake Arrieta (2-6, 5.37) Tampa Bay - Matt Moore (1-5, 4.76)
(Sports Network) - The battle for first place in the American League East continues as the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays meet for the conclusive game of a three-game set at Tropicana Field that will give the winner sole possession of the top spot in the American League East.
Left-hander Brian Matusz (5-5) helped the Orioles tie the Rays in the standings in Saturday's game by allowing only one run and two hits in 7 1/3 innings in his team's 2-1 road victory. The gutsy performance out of Matusz could not have come at a better time, as Baltimore had lost six in a row before Saturday's crucial contest.
Outfielder Endy Chavez also had a big performance when needed. Chavez went yard in the third inning with two outs to give Baltimore its first advantage. The home run was the first for Chavez since August 9, 2011.
Sean Rodriguez crossed the plate in the fifth on a fielder's choice to even the score before an error allowed Mark Reynolds to put the O's back on top in the seventh inning.
Adam Jones has gone 3-of-8 with two strikeouts in the series for Baltimore.
Pedro Strop successfully relieved Matusz after fatigue set in and Jim Johnson sealed the deal with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to pick up his 17th save of the year and 25th consecutive save dating back to last season. Baltimore's bullpen has 21 saves total, which is the most in the AL.
Either the phenomenal pitching will need to continue or Baltimore's offense will need to snap out of its slump. The Orioles have averaged just 2.3 runs while batting .222 during their last seven games. The defensive effort has also been exceptional. Shortstop J.J. Hardy made what ended up being a game saving double-play turn to end the eighth inning to keep the lead intact.
"J.J. is as fundamentally sound a shortstop as I've ever had," Showalter said. "He just doesn't assume anything. You like him involved in every crucial play, because he can slow the game down."
Righty Jake Arrieta will try to duplicate Matusz's magic in today's rubber match. Arrieta is certainly due, as his last win came on May 2. He is 0-4 with an 8.00 ERA in his five starts since that date. Despite his struggles, Arrieta is still tied for the team's lead with 58 strikeouts.
The Rays will send out lefty Matt Moore to combat Arrieta. The southpaw showed promise in his last outing as he went seven innings, struck out 10 and gave up two runs in a 2-1 loss to the red-hot White Sox on Monday. Moore has not picked up a win since May 1.
Tampa's two costly errors were a huge factor in its loss on Saturday. The Rays have committed the second most miscues in the American League this season.
"We aren't hitting through our mistakes," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And that's why they flare up and why they're really noticeable."
Tampa's two-hit performance in Saturday's loss was a season worst. The Rays, much like their counterpart, are struggling despite being at the top of the standings. Tampa is 2-5 in its last seven games and 1-4 at home during that stretch.
Both offenses went hitless with runners in scoring position and stranded five on Saturday.
Baltimore is 3-2 versus Tampa in the rivalry this season.
06/03 10:38:51 ET