For starters, Rays at Orioles, taking aim at the top team
UPDATE, 5:10: Orioles lineup:
UPDATE, 4:57: SS Yunel Escobar met this afternoon with Rays manager Joe Maddon to seek clarity on Sunday's news that he was claimed on waivers by the A's. Sounds like he was told how the system works - that claims are common this time of year and not to worry about it - and obviously he is in the lineup tonight. As reported yesterday, a deal is considered unlikely by the Tuesday 1 p.m. deadline.
UPDATE, 4:54: As for the importance of the series with the Orioles on the Rays playoff chances, Zobrist said it's obvious: "These are must-win games.''
UPDATE, 4:52: Myers said he was ready to return to the field, and insisted he feels better than he has looked at the plate, though admitted he may have come back from his rehab too soon. He is 3-for-18 in the five games with 10 strikeouts, nine looking. ... Kiermaier said his neck got stiff as a result of his slide into 2B on Sunday when he collided with Jose Reyes.
UPDATE, 4:45: The Rays lineup has an unusual look today for several reasons, the biggest being that OF Kevin Kiermaier is unable to play due to a stiff neck. With Kiermaier out and Desmond Jennings getting the day off anyway, the Rays will have Ben Zobrist in CF for the first time since 2010.
Also a factor is that Evan Longoria is getting another DH day, so Sean Rodriguez was needed to play 3B. And Will Myers is making his first outfield appearance since coming off the DL on Wednesday, having been the DH the previous five games.
Here is the lineup:
DEVELOPING: Having talked for weeks about getting back in the playoff race, the Rays can take matters into their own hands starting tonight as they open a four-game series with the AL East leading Orioles.
The Rays start the day 10 back of the Orioles, and 7 1/2 behind the Mariners for the second AL wild-card.
RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays tonight, and he acknowledged how important the games are.
"This will be a big series for us, a good determiner of how the rest of the year is going to go," he said. "We have to make some moves, and we have to do it against the best team."
The Rays are not expected to hear anything today on their protest of Saturday's game; MLB VP Joe Torre was planning to assess the situation today and rule in the next few days.
Lineups when available.