Anyone playing the Rays this season might be expected to strike out a bit -- Tampa Bay leads the Majors with nearly one punch out per inning -- but the Orioles could get a bit of a relative reprieve from that trend on Sunday. The Rays starter, right-hander Alex Cobb, gets the ball against Miguel Gonzalez and host Baltimore with an 8.0 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate, which ranks fourth among Tampa starters.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET at Camden Yards, as the Orioles seek a split of the four-game weekend set, which started with the teams splitting a doubleheader on Friday. Taking two of the first three is an impressive showing for a cellar-dwelling Rays team against a Baltimore squad that is battling for the top spot of the American League East with the Blue Jays and Yankees.
Part of that is because the O's are 3-for-19 with RISP with 17 men left on base in those three games. They have also struck out 25 times.
"It just speaks to the weird nature of this season for us that we've got that going on, less balls put in play by the opposition, overall defense we've played pretty well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his club's tendency to tally strikeouts. "Obviously, David [Price] spearheads that whole movement, but nevertheless, [Jake] Odorizzi's done a nice job, and particularly the bullpen has been great with punchouts."
On the season, Cobb has a 4.10 ERA and 1.213 WHIP. He threw seven shutout innings against Baltimore on June 18, but allowed the Pirates six runs in five innings in his last start.
For Gonzalez (4.48 ERA, 1.493 WHIP), who has lasted just five innings in each of his last two outings, this would be a good time for the righty to give the O's some distance, especially after Wei-Yin Chen's 3 1/3-inning start on Saturday.
Thanks to spotty command, Gonzalez has allowed 17 hits and seven earned runs in 10 innings over his last two starts.
"I'm healthy," Gonzalez said following Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "Just got to keep working hard and keep having my team in the game. I think that's the most important thing."
The four-game series with the Rays is the start of a stretch of 11 games in 10 days for Baltimore. Adding to the stretched-thin scenario, the Orioles lost starting pitcher Bud Norris to the disabled list, leaving an opening for Tuesday's matchup with the Rangers. Baltimore could also be down a man on the roster should third baseman Manny Machado's suspension take effect during this stretch.
Rays: Longoria returning to hot corner Sunday after DH day
With the Rays officially in the second half of their schedule, and with third baseman Evan Longoria having played third base in all but two of the team's 82 games entering Saturday, Maddon slotted Longoria in as the designated hitter.
But why Saturday, as opposed to any other game? While Saturday starter Erik Bedard tends to be a fly-ball pitcher, Cobb sees 55 percent of his batted balls hit on the ground, and just 28.7 percent in the air.
"With Bedard pitching, he's primarily in the air," Madden said. "With Cobb going out there [Sunday], I thought it was a good way to maneuver."
Orioles: Decision regarding Reimold looming
Nolan Reimold has missed almost a year after having back surgery in July 2013, but he's just about ready to return to the Majors. The biggest question is whether the Orioles have a spot for him.
Reimold has been rehabbing with Double-A Bowie in recent weeks, batting .326/.433/.522 in 15 games. His rehab assignment expires Sunday, so the O's either have to find room for him on the 25-man roster, -- which isn't exactly lacking offense from the outfield -- or designate him for assignment and risk losing him to another organization.
Reimold is a career .252/.327/.439 hitter in parts of five seasons with the Orioles. Injuries have limited him to just 56 Major League games since the start of 2012.
• After Baltimore won seven of the first eight games between these teams this season, Tampa Bay has won two of three this weekend.
• With 268 strikeouts this month, Rays pitchers have set a new Major League record for strikeouts in June. The record for any month is 286 (Cubs, 2002). Including Sunday's contest, the Rays have two games left this month.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.