A tall task, no question, especially for a team whose starting rotation is in limbo almost every day. But it was likely made a bit easier after the Orioles defeated the White Sox, 11-3, heading into Thursday's off-day, in their final home game until Sept. 5.
"[It] makes the [off-day] tomorrow a whole lot nicer and it gives everybody a really good feeling about themselves," manager Dave Trembley said. "It solidifies the fact that all year, what we do is we play hard. We don't give in, we don't give up, we don't quit.
"We compete against the best clubs. We know what our limitations are, but we know that when we play our style of baseball -- we get good pitching and we catch the ball -- we're usually going to have an opportunity to have a chance to win, because we feel like we can score some runs."
And they will need to do just that if they intend to take any of those six games from the American League and Wild Card leaders. The Orioles are just 2-7 this season against the Rays, their last experience with Tampa Bay coming May 23-25 at Tropicana Field -- a series the Orioles would likely rather forget as they were swept out of St. Petersburg 2-0, 11-4 and 5-4.
"We've got to realize we're probably not going to the playoffs, so each day is a stepping stone really towards where we want to be as a team," said second baseman Brian Roberts. "We have goals. We certainly want to get to .500 or whatever it might be but we don't take each day as do or die right now. Right now, it's about building."
The Orioles will get a good look at what happens when "building" works out for a team when they take on the Rays, who are the biggest turnaround stories in baseball this season -- already notching 80 victories after finishing just 66-96 last year.
"We're going right back into the fire Friday," Trembley said. "We play Tampa Bay, which is a great team, and then we go to Fenway and then it's September. It's fun. Let's play."Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 3.28 ERA)
Guthrie, Baltimore's ace, suffered through one of his worst starts of the season in his last outing, a 5-3 loss to the Yankees. The right-hander also served up two homers in his second consecutive loss. Still, the Orioles are likely not worried in the least about Guthrie, who has proven time and again this season to be the only person who can consistently, and confidently, take the ball every fifth day. Guthrie will also get an extra day of rest due to the Orioles' off-day on Thursday. Guthrie has faced the Rays twice this season, both times at Tropicana Field, and he is 0-2, despite allowing just three combined earned runs. TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (9-6, 3.27 ERA)
Kazmir took a no-decision in his last outing, against the White Sox on Saturday, when he allowed three runs on four hits while walking two and striking out seven. The 24-year-old left-hander has struggled with his mechanics lately and has worked all season, with little luck, to gain command of his slider, which has historically been his best pitch. Without his slider, Kazmir has relied primarily on a fastball-changeup combination. He is 4-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 12 career starts against the Orioles. Bird bites
Right fielder Nick Markakis gunned down Jim Thome attempting to stretch a single into a double in the third inning on Wednesday night for his Major League-leading 15th outfield assist. ... Starter Radhames Liz pitched a hitless top of the first inning Wednesday, marking the first time on the just-completed homestand that the Orioles retired the first three batters of the game. ... The Orioles' seven through nine hitters in the lineup (Luke Scott, Lou Montanez and Juan Castro) went 6-for-9 with three doubles, three walks, six runs scored and two RBIs on Wednesday night. Tickets
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Saturday: Orioles (TBD) at Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 13-6, 4.42), 3:55 p.m. ET
Sunday: Orioles (Chris Waters, 2-1, 4.71) at Rays (James Shields, 11-8, 3.75), 1:40 p.m. ET
Monday: Orioles (TBD) at Red Sox (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less