When the Rays visit Camden Yards to play the Orioles for a series opener on Tuesday evening, both American League East contenders from a year ago will be hoping that they get longer outings from their starting pitchers than they did last time, plus the bats to go with it.
First, however, both clubs will honor the life, legacy and memory of Jackie Robinson a day after Jackie Robinson Day proper, which the Orioles had off but will honor through a collaboration between OriolesREACH and center fielder Adam Jones, who will host more than 100 Orioles RBI League players and coaches for a private screening of the movie "42," about Robinson's courage in breaking baseball's color barrier.
On Tuesday, both clubs will honor Robinson by wearing his No. 42 on all their uniforms. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
Back between the lines, the Rays, who dropped a 3-2 walk-off decision Monday against the Red Sox in the Patriots' Day game in Boston, will be looking for good pitching and renewed offense.
The Rays got 6 2/3 innings from right-hander Roberto Hernandez in his previous start, but he gave up five runs to the Rangers, a team he's struggled against in his career.
"Good arm, good stuff," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Hernandez. "We talked to him [in Spring Training] about a couple of different things he's been utilizing in the games. I think he's been really good. And I think this guy stands to have a really good season."
The Orioles, meanwhile, were watching Jake Arrieta pitch five innings and give up three runs to the Red Sox on Wednesday when a 43-minute rain delay hit; Arrieta didn't return. Arrieta's biggest concern seems to be limiting walks. He had four in that last game, and two of those baserunners scored.
"I talked to [pitching coach Rick Adair] in between innings, and I think it was pretty obvious that I was thinking about the wrong thing in that situation," Arrieta said. "Rather than just be smooth, throw the ball down in the zone, I was way too worried about throwing a strike there."
Hernandez's struggles in the outing against Texas mirrored the early-season woes of his team. The Rays enter Tuesday's series opener having lost six of their last seven games, while hitting just .156 with 10 runs scored during that span, including just two runs off six hits in their last two games combined. The club has scored just 35 runs this season, its lowest total through the first 12 games of a campaign in franchise history.
"It's not a new path," Rays manager Joe Maddon said about the team's struggling offense. "It's not the road less traveled. We've been there. We know how to deal with it, and we'll keep moving forward from there."
Maddon is hoping his club can break out against Arietta and a Baltimore pitching staff that hasn't quite found its groove yet this season. At the same time, Maddon knows the O's rotation has the potential to click just as fast as his team's offense.
"They're tough to pitch against because they do have some good hitters up and down the lineup," Maddon said. "And they've got some guys who have been hot. Their starting pitching I think has a chance to be very good. It hasn't arrived at that point yet."
Rays: Longoria riding long streak of reaching base
Third baseman Evan Longoria homered in Monday's game to continue his streak of reaching base safely in every game this season.
Along with reaching base at least once in each of Tampa Bay's 12 games this year, Longoria also did so in the final 14 games of 2012 to form the second-longest streak of his career at 26 games. The three-time All-Star reached base safely in 32 straight contests from May 10-June 15, 2010.
Orioles: Jones still scorching
Jones went 0-for-4 on Friday night, snapping his season-opening nine-game hit streak, which included six multi-hit games. Jones also hit in the first 10 games of the 2012 season and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, is now the only player in franchise history (including the St. Louis Browns) to start consecutive seasons with hitting streaks of nine or more games. Jones went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Saturday and 1-for-4 on Sunday and is batting .412 this season.
• Over the last 20 regular-season games (dating back to Sept. 26, 2012), Chris Davis has home run streaks of six games, four games and two games. He has a total of 13 homers in those 20 games.
• Since moving to the bullpen on Aug. 24, 2012, lefty Brian Matusz has stranded all 17 runners he has inherited, leaving all 14 on base in 2012 and all three in 2013.
• The Rays are 0-for-11 (including two walks) with the bases loaded in 2013 and were hitless in their last 13 at-bats with the sacks full going back to last Sept. 21, when Luke Scott doubled vs. Toronto.
• The Orioles are 0-3 in one-run games and 1-1 in two-run games in 2013 after going a Major League-record 29-9 in one run games and 25-14 in two-run games last season.