ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays had spent every day of the 2017 season within three games of .500, good or bad, until Friday’s emphatic 15-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
So the idea of seizing momentum and sustaining it for an extended win streak is still something foreign, even for a team in line for a wild-card berth in the current American League standings.
“The guys have come together really well and found ways to win series,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Some series we’ve won by slugging, some series we’ve won by getting really good starting pitching. … As we’ve said for a while, we feel we are a good team.”
The Rays (40-36) hope to show that Saturday at Tropicana Field against the Orioles, counting on another unlikely star in rookie Jacob Faria, who has been dominant in his first three starts, going 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA.
With that, Faria joins Jeremy Hellickson as the only pitchers in Rays history to win their first three starts, and the only pitchers to go at least six innings in each of their first three starts. There’s more. Since 1913, he is just the fifth pitcher to go at least six innings, allow one run or less and get the win in his first three starts, and the first since the Cardinals’ Andy Rincon in 1980.
Faria has struck out 22 batters while walking only four — that makes him the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 to win his first three starts while striking out at least 20 and walking fewer than five batters.
The Orioles, at the other end of the spectrum of momentum, found a more dubious piece of history, becoming the first time since the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies to allow at least five runs in 20 straight games.
Starter Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t make it out of the third inning, making the Orioles use relievers Alec Asher (49 pitches) and Miguel Castro (50) so long that they’ll need to make a roster move before Saturday’s game.
“We have to pitch better. It is what it is,” manager Buck Showalter said. “The help’s going to come from within. We’ve got to get back in step. We have to create some rhythm for the offense and the defense. I don’t like to hang it around one phase of it, but it starts to string some good starts together.”
Asked if he’d need a fresh arm called up for Saturday’s game, Showalter said, “At least one, for sure.” He’ll turn to RHP Dylan Bundy, who has a solid 7-6 record and 3.72 ERA, but he gave up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last outing.
Bundy is 0-1 with 6.06 ERA in four games — three starts — versus the Rays. He got a no-decision against them on April 26 when he allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-4 Baltimore win.
The Rays will get another boost to their surging offense as catcher Wilson Ramos will be reinstated from the disabled list to make his season debut after missing the entire season recovering from a torn ACL suffered last year. Ramos would add another power bat to their lineup, with Derek Norris being designated for assignment to make room for him.
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