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Orioles can’t relax with Tampa Bay Rays fully embracing spoiler role

Orioles can't rest on their laurels after uplifting Red Sox series.

It would be absolutely normal for the Orioles to pat themselves on the back and let out a sigh of relief after stepping up big-time on the just-completed nine-game road trip. But they can't afford to let down for a minute.

The final homestand of the year begins with four games against the last-place Tampa Bay Rays, who might seem like not much of a challenge after the O's won an edge-of-your-seat series against the division-leading Red Sox at Fenway Park.

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The Rays are so far behind everybody else in the American League East that they aren't even visible in the rear-view mirror, but you can bet they'll be ready to play when they arrive at Camden Yards tonight. Just ask the Blue Jays.

Over the last three days in Toronto, the Rays outscored the Jays 16-6 on the way to a series victory that dropped the Jays into the second wild-card position. It contributed to a 3-9 September that started with the Jays two games ahead of the Red Sox and four games ahead of the Orioles.

Maybe the Rays will be worn out after seven games in New York and Toronto, but the Orioles need to stay totally focused this weekend, which presents a golden opportunity to retake the AL East lead.

The same caveat applies to the Red Sox. The new-look Yankees have been playing well above-expectations since their midseason reset and you know they'll want to put a dent in the Red Sox pennant drive, especially at Fenway Park.

The O's need a solid start tonight from Yovani Gallardo, who will face young left-hander Blake Snell.

It'll be interesting to see what manager Buck Showalter does if the Orioles reel off a couple more victories in a row, since he's left the starter for Sunday's game unannounced. Though it might seem inconceivable to some, he could send Wade Miley back out for one more start so that Dylan Bundy can get an extra day and move back into the Red Sox series.

Miley has struggled mightily, but the only team remaining on the O's schedule that he has good career numbers against is the Rays. He's 4-2 in eight lifetime starts against the Rays with a sterling 2.81 ERA.

Doing that would allow Showalter to run Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman to the mound in what could be the series against the Red Sox that could decide everything.

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