The Rays and Orioles, in the throes of an intense American League Wild Card race, need every win they can get to keep pace for a postseason berth. Tampa Bay reeled off two victories in a matter of about 14 hours to start the weekend, and heads into the third game of the series on Sunday looking to make even more of a statement.
After a marathon, record-setting, 18-inning victory on Friday night, the Rays put together a quick 5-1 victory on Saturday afternoon to put the Orioles three games back from a Wild Card slot for the time being. Cleveland holds the second spot heading into Sunday. With the Indians' win over the Astros, the O's are 3 1/2 back of the second spot.
"It means a lot based on the time of year it is," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Friday's extra-innings win in advance of Saturday's game. "I'm so proud of our guys. Who didn't play? … You talk about a team win, every player here matters, and tonight is a perfect example."
Because of all the players -- specifically, pitchers -- who did play on Friday, the Rays will do some shuffling. Scheduled starter Jeremy Hellickson pitched 2 2/3 innings on Friday, so the team will call up left-hander Enny Romero to make his Major League debut.
"I don't think they had a choice but to throw us out there," Hellickson said. "I was happy I kept us where we were at and [we] were able to come through in the 18th."
Romero, 22, is the Rays' No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com's rankings, and he had a 2.76 ERA between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham this year.
Tampa Bay has won nine of the last 11 meetings with Baltimore and leads the all-time series by a slim 139-136 margin. The Rays are 4-2 so far in a stretch of 11 consecutive games against teams within arm's reach of a postseason berth.
The Orioles on Sunday will turn to righty Scott Feldman, who has been excellent over his last seven starts. He's held opponents to a .175 average in that span, posting a 1.77 ERA. He gave up just one earned run on two hits in five innings against the Red Sox in his most recent outing.
"We've got eight more games after this, and we've just got to keep grinding," Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, who took the loss on Saturday despite putting up an effective outing, said. "It's tough. It's tough losing two games, especially last night, coming in real late before. We battled. You've just got to tip your hat to those guys. They played a great game."
Rays: Stars struggling
Some of the biggest bats have stalled over the last few games, with Evan Longoria, James Loney, Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson all struggling during this recent stretch of crucial games.
Joyce is hitting .077 over 14 games in September, Loney is 2-for-21 over his last five, Longoria is 6-for-32 over his last seven and Johnson is 6-for-42 over his last 18 ballgames.
• The Rays are 49-30 at home and need to win one of the final two games at Tropicana Field to record their third 50-win home season. Since 2011 they are 28-12 at home in September.
Orioles: Keeping it close
Seventeen of the Orioles' last 18 games have been decided by two runs or fewer. Baltimore is 6-7 and 8-11 in those contests.
• The bullpen has allowed just three earned runs in its last 25 innings, dating back to Sept. 11. Those three runs have come in the last two games, against Tampa Bay.
• The Rays have 12 walk-off wins this season, the second most in club history and the most in the AL heading into Saturday's slate of games. Tampa Bay had a franchise-best 13 in 2011.
• Tampa Bay has clinched the season series against Baltimore, which means they would host the Wild Card game should the two division rivals finish with identical records, or in a tiebreaker game, if necessary.