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Jun 2, 2024 2:54 am

Red-hot Orioles aim for sweep of Rays

Ryan Mountcastle

In yet another special series for the Baltimore Orioles, it’s hard to say where the most praise should go — to the batters or the pitchers.

Both groups have had notable stretches again, putting the Orioles in position to go for a three-game sweep of the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Mountcastle’s two home runs — and he nearly launched a third later — were among four the team hit.

“It was a good day,” Mountcastle said. “Glad to get the win.”

The good days have far outnumbered the bad lately: Baltimore has won eight of its past nine games.

Mountcastle drove in only six runs in May, so collecting four runs in the 9-5 victory to start June was encouraging for the Orioles.

“He’s driving the baseball the other way,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s letting the ball travel, staying on the ball so well. When he doesn’t try to do too much and uses the middle-of-the-field approach, (he’s) a special hitter.”

The Rays are desperate to break out of their funk, having lost nine of their past 12 games.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash was ejected in the top of the third inning Saturday for arguing ball-and-strike calls, but he was around long enough to see Baltimore’s early power display.

“Credit their lineup, for sure,” Cash said. “That’s a challenging lineup to navigate through.”

The Rays turn to right-hander Zack Littell (2-3, 3.03 ERA), who has completed at least five innings in 10 of his 11 starts and eight straight. Yet he’s just 1-3 in those eight games, and he has surrendered one home run in each of the past three.

Sunday’s assignment will mark Littell’s fourth in a five-game stretch against American League East opponents. He has pitched a total of 7 2/3 career innings vs. Baltimore in three games, one of them as a starter, and has a 2.35 ERA with no wins or losses.

The Orioles will counter with left-hander Cole Irvin (5-2, 2.84). He has returned to the starting rotation after two appearances in relief. On Monday night, he put together five shutout innings vs. the Red Sox in a starting role, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out six.

All five of Irvin’s wins have come in his past five starts. All-time against the Rays, he’s 1-2 with a 4.19 ERA in four outings, including three starts.

Baltimore’s bullpen is eighth in the majors with a 3.61 ERA. After Kyle Bradish didn’t make it out of the third inning, Jacob Webb was the first of five relievers used Saturday, and none of them allowed a run.

“When I’m coming out of the bullpen, I’m not coming into the game thinking about giving up runs,” Webb said. “Just trying to shut them down and go as far as I can until they take the ball from me.”

There seems to be a chorus of praise for Baltimore’s relief corps.

“There’s not enough focus being put on what our bullpen did (Saturday),” third baseman Jordan Westburg said. “Those guys kind of saved the game for us.”

–Field Level Media

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