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Amid rash of bad news, Rays seek sweep of Orioles

The Tampa Bay Rays keep winning games despite losing players.

The American League East-leading Rays announced Wednesday that pitcher Jalen Beeks (left elbow sprain) was placed on the 45-day injured list and lost for the season, and starting center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (back spasms) left in the middle of an at-bat during the game.

Still, the Rays keep clicking off victories, winning 15 of their past 18 games and taking a 2 1/2-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees.

Tampa Bay's Michael Perez hit a tiebreaking homer Wednesday to beat Baltimore for the second time in the three-game series, edging the Orioles 4-3. The finale of the three-game series is Thursday.

Hampered by a rash of injuries from the outset, the Rays have now lost five pitchers for at least this season -- prized starting prospect Brendan McKay (left shoulder surgery), Yonny Chirinos (Tommy John surgery), Colin Poche (Tommy John surgery), Andrew Kittredge (UCL sprain) and now Beeks.

Also injured, and possible to return, are 2019 All-Star Charlie Morton, Jose Alvarado, Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe. All of them are key contributors.

The Rays have used 24 pitchers in the injury-filled campaign, while 14 of them have earned wins and 10 relievers have earned saves on the patchwork staff.

Tyler Glasnow's dominant 13-strikeout performance in the series-opening, 4-2 win over Baltimore on Tuesday was tempered quite a bit by the injury to Beeks, a reliable lefty reliever who exited the game just two outs away from a two-inning save.

"The pitching was huge," manager Kevin Cash said of the effort Wednesday by his staff, which allowed three unearned runs. "Our pitchers did a tremendous job. ... We won the game because they were able to limit damage and pick us up after our defensive miscues."

Ryan Yarbrough (0-2, 4.45 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season Thursday, his first of the year against Baltimore. The southpaw has appeared seven times in his career against the Orioles, including two starts, and is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in those games.

He might get his first look at Orioles newcomer Ryan Mountcastle. Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde is going to give the rookie every chance to make a good impression in the outfield during in the season's second half.

Mountcastle, 23, has played in only five games so far, manning left field, a position he is learning to play after working at first base most of his career. But the early returns have been good on the 2015 first-round draft pick (36th overall) from Winter Spring, Fla., who walked twice in his debut.

Mountcastle drew just 24 walks in 2019 -- with just two two-walk games -- for Triple-A Norfolk. But his plate approach then was all about swinging the bat and driving in runs.

Last year, in his first season playing above Double-A, the righty-hitting Mountcastle tallied 25 home runs, 35 doubles and 83 RBIs while batting .312 in 127 games, earning him the International League's MVP award.

Mountcastle is hitting .375 (6-for-16), delivered his first career RBI with a line single to right on Tuesday and added two hits Wednesday.

"I'm going to play him a lot, give him a lot of at-bats for the next 30-plus games," Hyde said.

Baltimore left-hander John Means (0-2 10.13 ERA) will start Thursday and try to regain his 2019 All-Star form. In four career appearances (three starts) against the Rays, he is 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA and a crisp 0.91 WHIP. He has issued just one walk and fanned 20 in 22 innings.

--Field Level Media