ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles surprised a lot of people this season with their hot start as they enter tonight's series with the Rays playing for first place in the American League East.
But DH Luke Scott is not one of them.
Scott, who played four seasons in Baltimore before signing with the Rays in the offseason, saw the Orioles go on a similar run late in 2010, finishing with a 34-23 stretch. Scott said Baltimore is using a similar recipe for success; it is tied for the fourth-best ERA in the league, 3.67.
"It started with our pitching. When we pitched well, we won a lot of games," Scott said. "Because the lineup can swing the bats; there's a lot of good hitters in that lineup. Mix in some good pitching, a very good bullpen, and they'll win some games."
Baltimore has received key contributions in the rotation from ex-Ray Jason Hammel, and its bullpen ranks among the league's best. The Orioles' core of young players, including CF Adam Jones, RF Nick Markakis and C Matt Weiters, has stepped up, though Baltimore enters tonight's game having lost five in a row.
"They've had talent and have been gaining experience the last couple years," said tonight's Rays starter, David Price. "They're putting that experience out there on the field. They're playing to their potential."
Though it's only June, 1B Carlos Peña said this series is important.
"I think it's going to be intense," Peña said. "In the back of our minds, even though we want to treat every single game the same, we understand there's a lot hanging on these games."
PRICE CHECK: Price enters tonight's start in a groove, having worked seven innings or more in each of his past five outings. It matches the longest such stretch of his career (the other from Aug. 12 to Sept. 5, 2011), and is the longest current streak in the American League.
"I feel pretty good," Price said. "I've been able to throw all my pitches for strikes right now. I've been able to get ahead and get some early outs. (C Jose Molina) and I have been on the same page; we've been going pretty good."
MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Desmond Jennings (left knee sprain) went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored playing leftfield for Class A Charlotte on Thursday, the first game of his rehabilitation assignment. He was scheduled to play for Triple-A Durham today and hoped to rejoin the Rays on Tuesday in New York.
GOOD CAUSE: The Rays have printed an additional 1,000 "Players and their Pooches" 2012 calendars, which will go on sale today for $13 at Pet Pal Animal Shelter, Pet Pal Veterinary Clinic, the team store at Tropicana Field, and the Rays Pro Shop in Tampa ($13). The first 1,000 calendars sold out, raising $15,000 for Pet Pal Animal Shelter. … 3B Evan Longoria and Red Bull will contribute $1,000 per home run and $500 per RBI to refurbish Tampa Bay Little League facilities through the "Tampa's Got Wings" program.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]