The Baltimore Orioles will look to extend their lead atop the American League East when they oppose the Tampa Bay Rays again on Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla

The Orioles (59-37), who entered the four-game series leading the Rays (60-40) by percentage points for first place, moved a game ahead with a 4-3, 10-inning victory in the opener

Baltimore, which is seeking its 11th win in 13 games, is playing its best baseball of the season. On Friday, the Orioles will look to knock off the Rays for the fifth time in the teams’ seven meetings this season

“Our goal isn’t to be in first place on July 20th, but to be there at the end of the season,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “A lot of baseball left. The guys have played their butts off this whole season and I’m proud of them. (They) put themselves in the position that they’re in right now. We still have a couple of months to go.

The Orioles will look to earn at least a series split on Friday behind Kyle Bradish (6-4, 3.05 ERA), who has been nothing short of spectacular this month

In his three July starts against the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Miami Marlins, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 0.47 ERA. He has allowed just one run on 13 hits with 20 strikeouts and four walks over 19 1/3 innings.

He was nearly as good the last time he faced the Rays. Bradish allowed two runs on four hits with eight strikeouts and two walks over five innings in an 8-6 win on June 20

In his career against Tampa Bay, Bradish is 1-1 with a 7.98 ERA with 16 strikeouts and five walks over three starts spanning 14 2/3 innings.

The Rays, meanwhile, are floundering. They have dropped five straight and 12 of their past 15 contests

Rookie Colton Cowser’s sacrifice fly scored Aaron Hicks to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th on Thursday

In the bottom of the inning, the Rays had runners on first and second after Wander Franco opened the frame as the automatic runner on second and Luke Raley was hit by a pitch. However, Baltimore All-Star closer Felix Bautista struck out Randy Arozarena, who fanned four times in five at-bats on the night, before inducing Brandon Lowe to ground into a game-ending double play

The Rays struck out 13 times — one fewer than the Orioles — on Thursday

“We don’t have much going our way right now,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said before the series opener. “We’re not creating opportunities like we’re capable of, and the things that we’re doing well are probably not showing up at the rate that we would like.”

The Rays will give the ball to Zach Eflin (10-5, 3.59 ERA), who is coming off his worst start of the season. The right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits with no strikeouts or walks in just three innings of an 8-4 loss to the host Kansas City Royals on Sunday

The last time he faced Baltimore, Eflin allowed four runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and a walk in six innings of a 4-2 loss on May 9.

Eflin is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA with 20 strikeouts against two walks in three starts spanning 19 innings against the Orioles in his career

–Field Level Media


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