The Tampa Bay Rays have the same record through 105 games as they did in 2011, when they made their third playoff appearance in four years.
Coming off a successful road trip and possessing one of the hottest pitching staffs in baseball, they seem to have the confidence to make another run at the postseason.
The Rays (55-50) were seven games out of the wild card with the same amount of games played last year but made a run and qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the season. This year, Tampa Bay is locked in a tight five-team battle for a wild-card spot, with two available in each league through the new playoff format.
The pitching staff is doing its part to help Tampa return to the postseason in 2012, leading the majors with a 2.45 ERA, 197 strikeouts and a .200 opponents' batting average since the All-Star break.
"As long as our pitchers are on a roll, we have a good shot," manager Joe Maddon told the team's official website.
The Rays completed a 6-3 road swing with a 4-1 win over Oakland on Wednesday, as they finished the trip with a 1.70 ERA. Carlos Pena had a solo homer and an RBI double in the finale."It's pretty spectacular," Maddon said. "To win each series is about as good as it gets right now."
Moore (7-7, 4.01 ERA) is coming off one of his better outings, having allowed four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday. He has gone 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA in his last three starts.
The left-hander, who made his major league debut in relief Sept. 14 versus the Orioles, is 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts versus Baltimore this year. He gave up one earned run over six innings of an 8-4 victory in the most recent matchup June 3.
Tampa Bay began its solid trip by taking two of three from the Orioles (55-50), who are tied with the Rays after a 12-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday snapped their three-game winning streak.
Baltimore finds itself in the playoff hunt despite the defeat, and it's above .500 this late in a season for the first time since it was 60-60 on Aug. 17, 2005."It's fun to be playing games at this point in the year," said center fielder Adam Jones , whose next home run will give him a career high-tying 25 and 100 for his career. "It's my fifth year here, and it's the first time in August that the games really do matter. It's fun, and it's important."
Jones has recorded at least one hit in 10 of his last 11 games for Baltimore, which has batted .221 in nine meetings with the Rays this season.
Tommy Hunter is scheduled to take the hill for the Orioles looking to help prevent a sixth loss in eight meetings with Tampa Bay.
Hunter (4-6, 5.68) pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief Wednesday, but is still scheduled to start Friday.
The right-hander is 1-4 with a 6.36 ERA on the road but worked into the eighth inning in his last two outings away from home. He allowing three runs in seven-plus innings of the most recent one, a 3-1 loss to Cleveland on July 23.
Hunter is 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA in four starts versus the Rays, last facing them in 2010.
|July 28, 2012||Jim Thome||15-Day DL||Herniated disc|
|July 16, 2012||Robert Andino||15-Day DL||Left shoulder subluxation|
|July 16, 2012||Robert Andino||15-Day DL||Left shoulder subluxation|
|July 14, 2012||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Arthroscopic surgery, right knee|
|July 02, 2012||Brian Roberts||15-Day DL||Torn muscle, right hip|
|June 28, 2012||Nick Johnson||60-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Alex Cobb||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee contusion|
|July 02, 2012||Hideki Matsui||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|June 30, 2012||Jeremy Hellickson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right shin|
|June 29, 2012||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|June 20, 2012||Matt Joyce||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- B.J. Upton and his brother can really share a pair of milestone moments.
Upton joined elite company by hitting his 100th career homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-0 on Friday night.
Upton put the Rays ahead 1-0 on a fourth-inning homer to center off Tommy Hunter (4-7). Upton joins Rickey Henderson , Barry Bonds , Bobby Bonds , Cesar Cedeno , Lloyd Moseby , Eric Davis and Hanley Ramirez as the only players to amass 100 homers and 200 steals before age 28.
"Anytime you can be in the same sentence with any of those guys, it's always an honor," Upton said. "I'm glad I'm in a position to be able to do that. Rickey Henderson is definitely one of the guys I looked up when I was growing up."
Upton turns 28 on Aug. 21. His brother, Arizona's Justin Upton , also hit his 100th career homer earlier in the night at Philadelphia.
I was just texting (Justin)," B.J. Upton said. "He said he got his before mine. It's cool to do that on the same day. It's one home run, but I'm glad it happened."
The Upton brothers both hit their 99th homers during games on July 20.
"Congratulations to the Family Upton," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "That's an incredible feat. Mom and Dad have to be really proud tonight. The brothers have to feel great about it, but just think about being the parents at that moment. That's pretty neat."
Tampa Bay's Matt Moore (8-7) improved to 7-2 in his past 11 starts after giving up six hits over 5 1-3 innings. Fernando Rodney , the fourth Rays' reliever, pitched the ninth for his 32nd save.
The Rays have four shutouts in their past six games.
Desmond Jennings made it 2-0 on a solo shot in the sixth. Hunter has given up 26 homers this season.
"Left the balls up," Hunter said. "It was mistakes."
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones later in the sixth made a catch near the wall to take away an extra-base hit from Carlos Pena with runners on first and second.
Hunter allowed two runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings.
Baltimore loaded the bases with two outs in the first, but failed to score when Moore struck out Mark Reynolds .
Jake McGee replaced Moore with a runner on second and one out during the sixth and worked out of the jam. Joel Peralta struck out Reynolds and pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit with two on to end the eighth.
"You get some opportunities, you better take advantage of them," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Notes: Maddon said 3B Evan Longoria , out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring, could rejoin the team during a three-game series against Toronto that starts Tuesday. ... Orioles DH Jim Thome , on the disabled list due to a herniated disc in his neck, received an epidural injection. ... Rays RHP Jeff Niemann (broken right fibula) threw a simulated game and is set to start a minor league rehab assignment next Wednesday. ... Orioles 2B Brian Roberts had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.. ... Tampa Bay recalled INF Will Rhymes from Triple-A Durham. ... Rays DH Jeff Keppinger left after turning his ankle sliding into second base.