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Orioles on deck: What to watch Tuesday at Rays

Orioles (75-62) vs. Rays (58-78)

Where: Tropicana Field

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First pitch: 7:10 p.m.

TV/Radio: MASN/105.7 The Fan

Starting pitchers: Orioles RHP Yovani Gallardo (4-7, 5.62 ERA) vs. Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi (9-5, 3.56 ERA)

What to watch

1. Closing in: Thanks in large part to Ubaldo Jimenez, the Orioles are within two games of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, within one game of the second-place/wild card-leading Boston Red Sox, and still tied for the second wild card with the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles are looking to strike again, to win a second straight series over an American League East rival to potentially get back within one game of first place in the division.

2. Rotation watch: With Jimenez pitching as well as he is and Chris Tillman scheduled to return Sunday during the next trip through the rotation, Yovani Gallardo's starting job could be in jeopardy if the Orioles don't turn to a six-man rotation. That means tonight's start is a big one. Gallardo hasn't been as awful as his 5.62 ERA indicates. In 15 starts since returning from the disabled list on June 18, he has allowed more than four runs only twice and has pitched at least five innings 12 times. If you take away his two worst starts during that 15-outing stretch, his ERA since coming back from the DL drops by more than a run from 5.31 to a more respectable 4.23 -- just a tick above the league average this season (4.21). He has been pitching deeper of late as well, with six of his past nine starts going at least six innings. However, Jimenez, Tillman, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman aren't likely to be unseated. And Wade Miley, the only other struggling starter, is left-handed. It will be worth watching to see if Gallardo ramps it up before the rotation gets a bit overcrowded.

3. Much more Crush-like: In 28 games since Aug. 7, Chris Davis has turned his season around. He has 12 home runs and 17 RBIs during that time, and has raised his OPS 53 points to .818 thanks to a .260/.372/.656 batting line. Davis' .426 OPS with one home run over the previous 26 games will dent his overall numbers this season, but he's still on pace for either the third- or fourth-best season of his career because of his resurgence. He has crushed Rays pitching this year with four homers, 12 RBIs and a .914 OPS in 13 games. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to do so tonight against Jake Odorizzi, who is 6-0 with a 1.89 ERA over his past nine starts.

Orioles lineup

CF Adam Jones
DH Pedro Alvarez
3B Manny Machado
RF Mark Trumbo
1B Chris Davis
LF Steve Pearce
C Matt Wieters
2B Jonathan Schoop
SS JJ Hardy

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