Orioles try to stay hot at Tampa Bay after historic homestand

September 05, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Coming off their historic 9-2 homestand, the Orioles get back to playing AL East teams with a three-game series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.

That homestand was the Orioles' best homestand of 11 games or more since they went 10-2 during a span in June and July 1979.

The Orioles have won five of six games in St. Pete this season and lead the season series against the Rays, 11-5.

With a 9 ½ game lead in the AL East, the Orioles’ final 23 games will be against division teams. The O’s are 33-20 against the AL East, the second-best interdivisional record in the game. (The Dodgers are 37-21 against the NL West.)

The Orioles also own a 39-29 (.574) record on the road, their best road winning percentage since 1997, when they were 52-29 (.642).

-- Left-hander Andrew Miller threw a bullpen session before the game, the first time he’s thrown off a mound since tweaking his left leg on his final pitch of Sunday’s game.

“I feel really good,” Miller said. “I think everybody’s happy with where we’ve come. I think it’s been as expected, which is all you can ask for. We thought it was pretty minimal and still think that. Feel like they ran me through the gauntlet out there and survived, so I should be ready to go.”

Before throwing the pen session, Miller did some long toss in the outfield and said he tested with leg with some pitchers fielding practice.

“That’s one of those hard words to describe but that’s kind of what it was,” Miller said. “It was pretty minimal and just kind of a grab right there on the last pitch. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a strain or a pull or a cramp or anything like that.  I think it’s all below that. Just a pretty minor thing. One of those things. Fortunately, we’ve been playing well and precautionary, been able to take a few days.”

Miller, who missed the first 26 games with a hamstring strain in the beginning of the 2012 season with Boston, said past issues with his thigh area have helped him in recovering from this injury.

“It’s probably somewhat related,” Miller said. “I’d imagine it has something to do with either the way I pitch or that part of my body or something. But ultimately I knew it was nowhere near there severity of the last on, and the last one was pretty easy to handle, as well. I think it kind of just gave us an idea of what we would do and how we’d take care of it. And the training staff is good. They know what they’re doing and they got me better.”

First baseman Steve Pearce, took batting practice and did some fielding before Friday's game to test his right abdominal strain and said he didn’t feel any discomfort. Pearce took his first swings on Thursday with some tee work.

Pearce will see how he feels Saturday and could be back in the lineup for Saturday’s afternoon game.

“Yup, there’s no point in rushing it,” Pearce said. “Today we did hitting and we were out in the field and everything felt fine so we’ll wait to see how I feel tomorrow and see where we go from there.”

Pearce, who is from nearby Lakeland, is hitting .444/.565/1.111 with three homers and six RBIs in six games at Tropicana Field this season.

“Yeah, I like hitting here,” Pearce said. “It’s fun. I’ve got a bunch of family here so I want to play for them, but the most important part is my health so I want to take care of that before anything else.”

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Orioles
Nick Markakis RF
David Lough LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Chris Davis 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Caleb Joseph C
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Wei-Yin Chen LHP

Rays 
Ben Zobrist CF
Brandon Guyer LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Wil Myers RF
James Loney 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Ryan Hanigan C
Sean Rodriguez DH
Alex Cobb RHP

eencina@baltsun.com
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