(Sports Network) – The Tampa Bay Rays own the best road record of any team in the majors this season, in part due to their success at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. The postseason contenders will have their sights set on another victory over the homestanding Orioles when the two American League East foes continue a three-game series this evening.
Tampa Bay improved to 40-25 on the road and 6-1 at Camden Yards in 2010 by virtue of last night’s 4-1 triumph. The victory, the fifth in the last six games for the Rays, kept Joe Maddon’s club 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the race for home-field advantage throughout the upcoming AL Playoffs as well as first place in the league’s East Division.
Matt Garza (14-7) continued his own dominance of the Orioles in Friday’s opener, with the Tampa hurler yielding one run over the first 5 2/3 innings to notch his 14th win of the season. Garza moved to 9-1 lifetime against Baltimore and 6-0 in eight starts at Camden Yards.
“He really utilized his changeup,” Maddon said of Garza. “He was throwing it on some really odd counts, 2-2, 3-2 pitches, which prevented [the Orioles] from just sitting hard and I think that was the big difference [Friday].”
Carl Crawford paced the Rays offensively with three hits, including an RBI single in the top of the third that knocked in the game’s first run. Reid Brignac finished 2-for-4 with a run-scoring base hit of his own for Tampa Bay, now 10-3 against the bottom-feeding Orioles so far this season.
Baltimore’s Kevin Millwood (3-15) became the majors’ first 15-game loser of the year after the veteran righty was reached for four runs and issued five walks in a 5 2/3-inning stint.
“Any time you walk five guys and hit a guy against a team like that, you’re going to struggle to win,” Millwood said afterward.
The Orioles have now dropped three in a row following a four-game winning streak and will call upon Jeremy Guthrie to end the team’s skid. If the right- hander is able to duplicate the line of his most recent start, Baltimore should have a good chance of doing so.
Guthrie limited the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to four hits and a walk over 8 1/3 shutout innings to lead the O’s to a 1-0 verdict this past Sunday. The effort continued a strong second half for the former first-round draft choice, as he’s now 5-2 with an excellent 2.51 earned run average in nine outings following the All-Star break.
The 31-year-old also shut down the Rays in a matchup in St. Petersburg last month, surrendering a mere two hits over six scoreless innings in Baltimore’s 5-0 win on August 13. Guthrie did struggle in two subsequent starts, allowing 12 runs (11 earned) over a combined 14 2/3 innings to suffer back-to-back defeats to Seattle and the Chicago White Sox, before rebounding with last weekend’s gem.
For his career, Guthrie is 4-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 14 appearances (12 starts) versus Tampa Bay.
James Shields draws the assignment for the Rays tonight and has also put together a nice second-half surge. The durable righty has won six of eight decisions since the break and enters this contest riding a three-start winning streak.
Shields has pitched to a 2.75 ERA and fanned 24 batters in 19 2/3 innings over the course of his unbeaten stretch, which came after he was outdueled by Guthrie in that August 13 clash with the Orioles. In that game, the 28-year- old was tagged for four runs and 10 hits in only five frames.
In his latest start, Shields permitted three runs and struck out eight through 6 2/3 innings to defeat Boston on Sunday, six days after he registered 10 punchouts and tossed six innings of three-run ball (two earned) in a road win over the Angels.
Shields does sport a 7-3 record with a 3.32 ERA in 18 career encounters with the Orioles and has never lost at Camden Yards, having amassed a 4-0 mark with a 3.04 ERA in eight overall starts at the venue.