Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 7/26/12
Tampa Bay's newest acquisition has given the Rays another reason to believe they can make a playoff push. Baltimore's sputtering offense isn't giving the Orioles the same optimism. Ryan Roberts looks to build on an encouraging debut and help the Rays complete a three-game sweep of the Orioles on Thursday at Camden Yards. Tampa Bay (51-47) and Baltimore (51-47) are tied in the standings - 2 12 games out of an AL wild card spot - after the Rays' 10-1 victory Wednesday. David Price became the majors' first 14-game winner and Roberts homered and scored three runs in his first game with Tampa Bay. Roberts arrived only a few hours before game time after being traded from Arizona late Tuesday. He had 19 homers and 65 RBIs last season for the NL West champion Diamondbacks, but hadn't enjoyed the same success this year. The Rays are hoping a change of scenery will get his bat going, and it certainly seems possible given his track record against AL pitching. He is batting .289 with three homers, four doubles and 10 RBIs in 13 games against AL opponents this season, compared to .245 with four home runs, five doubles and 26 RBIs in 71 contests against the Senior Circuit. "I felt comfortable," Roberts said of his debut. "Maybe I belong here with this new group of guys." The Rays have won four of six overall and five of their last six against Baltimore. The Orioles are mired in a three-game losing streak, plating one run in each defeat. They've scored the third-fewest runs in the AL with 398, and have dropped nine of 11 at Camden Yards, averaging 1.9 runs in the defeats. "We'll be better," manager Buck Showalter said. Matt Wieters has been at the center of Baltimore's hitting woes, going 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts during the skid, and he has one hit in his last 27 at-bats. He is 2 for 9 with a homer and a double against scheduled starter James Shields (8-6, 4.39 ERA) since the start of last season, while fellow All-Star Adam Jones is 1 for 9. Shields allowed three runs and four hits while striking out 10 in 7 2-3 innings in a 4-3, 14-inning win over Seattle on Friday. It was a step in the right direction for the right-hander after he went 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA in his previous four starts, yielding at least 10 hits in each. Shields gave up six runs - four earned - in 6 1-3 innings of a 9-8 win in Baltimore on May 13, his lone start in the season series. The Orioles counter with Chris Tillman (2-1, 1.15), who allowed a run and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of Saturday's 3-1 win at Cleveland. In his three starts since being called up from the minors, he has yielded three runs over 15 innings in his two victories, but was tagged for seven runs - one earned - while failing to get out of the first in a loss at Minnesota on July 16. "In Minnesota things didn't go my way," the right-hander said. "But I knew exactly what I had to do - keep the ball down in the zone." This will be Tillman's sixth career start against the Rays, and he's still seeking his first win having gone 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA.
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