One of the reasons the Orioles are hanging tough in the tight American League East is their play away from Camden Yards. Baltimore entered Friday tied with Oakland for the AL lead with 19 road wins, although it fell, 2-1, to the Rays in their series opener at Tropicana Field.
Manager Buck Showalter's young club, which went 46-35 on the road last season, will look to continue that success on Saturday as it goes for its seventh win in 10 games.
"There are reasons. We're all looking for reasons why," Showalter said. "I think we have guys who are disciplined. Does than mean if we struggle on the road we have guys who aren't disciplined? It's not always a pure reason. They like being around each other. They travel well. Usually, you have to pitch pretty well and you have to catch pretty well.
"You just want everyone to be themselves. You don't want anybody to suppress their personalities. Whatever you bring, bring it. Let us know what we're getting. Tampa's got it, too. Other clubs do, too. We don't have a corner on it, but when you're around each other as much as we are for eight months, we pick their friends for them."
On Saturday, Showalter will hand the ball to rookie Kevin Gausman, who is searching for his first Major League win as he makes his fourth start.
Gausman, a 22-year-old right-hander and first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, enjoyed by far his best outing on Sunday in his home debut. He held the Tigers to one run on five hits in six innings, striking out four without issuing a walk. Gausman said he made some mechanical tweaks and also worked both a straight changeup and a split-change into his repertoire.
"I thought he had a much better angle today," Showalter said afterward. "[Pitching coach Rick Adair] and he made a couple adjustments getting back to what he was doing in the spring. ... You could tell right away he had a better angle, some depth to his fastball."
The Rays will counter with right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (3-2, 5.59 ERA), who has benefited from strong run support amid an extended rough patch. Hellickson has given up fewer than three runs only once over his past eight starts, compiling a 6.66 ERA in that span. On Sunday, the Indians touched him for three runs on nine hits in five innings.
Rays manager Joe Maddon admitted on Friday that his club needs better pitching in order to thrive in the division. The Rays, who entered Friday 10th in the AL in ERA, trail the first-place Red Sox by 3 1/2 games and the third-place Orioles by a half-game. But Tampa Bay got a strong performance from Chris Archer and two relievers in the series opener.
"That's the only way we can make up ground," Maddon said.
Orioles: Markakis returns from brief absence
• Right fielder Nick Markakis, who spent the previous two days attending his grandmother's funeral, was back in the lineup on Friday and went 0-for-4. He also went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, marking the first time since April 23-24 that Markakis has gone hitless in consecutive games.
• Left-handed reliever Mike Belfiore, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Friday, was optioned back there following Friday's game. That likely sets the stage for righty Pedro Strop to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday.
Strop, who had a lower back strain, last pitched on May 23. He has a 6.11 ERA in 17 2/3 innings this season, with 17 strikeouts and 14 walks. He had a 2.44 ERA in 70 appearances for the Orioles last season.
Rays: Rodney in a groove
• Closer Fernando Rodney needed only nine pitches, including eight strikes, to pitch a perfect ninth inning on Friday. He struck out two on his way to notching save No. 13.
While Rodney's ERA still sits at 4.56 to go with his five blown saves, he has flashed his 2012 form over his past seven appearances. In 6 1/3 scoreless innings over that span, he has allowed one hit and two walks while striking out seven.
• Desmond Jennings' go-ahead two-run shot in Friday's seventh inning was his first home run since May 21 and his second since May 3. Jennings has raised his batting average from .218 to .249 during that stretch, however.
• The Rays now own a 6-4 lead in the season series, pulling even in four contests at Tropicana Field.
• Hellickson has a 3.31 career ERA in 14 games against the Orioles, but has surrendered 13 runs on 18 hits over 14 innings against them this season. Over the past two years, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is 10-for-22 with three doubles, a home run and eight RBIs against Hellickson.