|Rays aiming for rare 5-game sweep of Orioles|
Teams often sweep a series during the baseball season, but the Tampa Bay Rays have a chance to pull off something unusual Sunday -- the completion of a five-game sweep over the host Baltimore Orioles.
The Rays have won the first four games of the series as they battle to lock up the American League East title. Tampa Bay's 3-1 win over the slumping Orioles on Saturday gave them a magic number of four for the division crown.
And the Rays (35-18) could be getting stronger with catcher Mike Zunino likely coming back. He's struggled on offense but is a solid defensive catcher that helps Tampa Bay and has been out with a left oblique strain.
"We're really close; we're hoping that tomorrow we'll activate and have him in the lineup," manager Kevin Cash said Saturday. "With that, his progress has gone well."
Zunino has been on the 10-day injured list since Aug. 29 -- retroactive to Aug. 26. But it now appears he's ready to go, and that's going to be a big lift for the Rays in the closing days of the regular season.
Randy Arozarena is one of the players who will likely be getting more playing chances with Austin Meadows done for the season (oblique injury from Thursday), and he came through in Saturday's win. Arozarena hit what turned out to be the game-winning two-run homer in the top of the fifth.
That snapped a 1-1 tie and gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 win. The team will need more efforts like that from him with Meadows out.
For Sunday's game, the Rays made a late announcement that left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (1-3, 3.97 ERA) would get the nod. In his last outing, Yarbrough followed an opener for the first time this year and allowed one run and five hits with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
For his career, Yarbrough is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven games, two starts, against the Orioles.
Baltimore (22-31) is going with John Means, who started slowly this season but has done better lately. Means (1-3, 5.63 ERA) has a 2-1 career record versus the Rays with a 3.68 ERA.
The Orioles suffered what could be a big loss when shortstop Jose Iglesias, the team's top hitter, got a left wrist contusion after being hit by a Charlie Morton pitch in the bottom of the second. Iglesias was in obvious pain and came out right away.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said x-rays were negative, and this is still considered a contusion, but the injury is going to be re-evaluated Sunday.
Iglesias has a .377 average so far this season.
"With our inexperience and our lack of major league at-bats from the majority of our lineup, he's the one guy in our lineup that's going to get four good at-bats," Hyde said. "To not have him in games, it's definitely a void."
Also, Hyde said before the game that Chris Davis will not be returning this season. He's been on the injured list twice due to left knee patellar tendinitis and was eligible to come back next week, but Hyde said that won't happen.
"He's not going to be back with us," Hyde said.
The question now is what will happen for Davis in the future with the Orioles, and that's going to be a tough decision for them to make, especially with his big contract.
--Field Level Media