Two pitchers headed in completely different directions hook up Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Blake Snell, the American League pitcher of the month for August, goes for the Tampa Bay Rays against the floundering Dylan Bundy and the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
While Snell is 17-5 with a 2.02 ERA and a Cy Young candidate after going 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in August, Bundy hasn't won since July 29 -- and it has been ugly.
The Rays, 22-11 since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to sneak into the American League wild-card picture, come in 7-3 in their last 10 games. They were still a long shot for the playoffs and if they don't make it they can point to their troubles with the lowly Orioles as a key reason.
The Birds fly in with 41 wins but are 8-8 against the Rays, outscoring them 102-77 in those 16 games.
"I think every year, there are some teams, for whatever reason -- I won't say match up well, because I think we match up well with a lot of clubs, we just don't perform well," Rays manager Kevin Cash says. "We've got an opportunity to perform well. ...
"It's a big series. It's a big homestand. We're going to face some teams who are in different spots in the standings right now, but I've said it for a long time, Baltimore is a team with a lot of young guys who are getting opportunities."
Snell, who has a streak of 14 straight home games (dating to last season) of allowing one earned run or fewer runs, has one of his losses against the Orioles. On May 13, the left-hander worked 3 1/3 innings, giving up three home runs and five earned runs.
He tied the club record with for wins in a month with four in August, yielding two earned runs in 22 innings. He has already equaled the 17 wins by Matt Moore in 2013. David Price holds the club mark of 20 wins, set in 2012.
For the season, Snell, 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA in four career starts against Baltimore, has 177 strikeouts in 151 2/3 innings.
Bundy is 0-4 with an 8.51 ERA in his last six starts, allowing nine home runs in those games. He has yielded at least one homer in 10 straight starts while falling to 7-13 with a 5.36 ERA.
He is 2-1 with a 4.62 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season and 3-3 with a 5.67 ERA in nine games (eight starts) against Tampa Bay in his career.
The Orioles lost their 99th game of the season as Andrew Cashner allowed three home runs in a 5-2 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday night in Seattle.
The Birds were 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position in their latest failure.
"There were some opportunities there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after that game. "It seems like every play we make is magnified by our inability to score runs."
The current Rays are a combined 16-for-61 (.262) with five homers against Bundy -- C.J. Cron with three of those homers while going 4-for-13 (.308) against the right-hander. Mallex Smith is 4-for-12 (.333) and Carlos Gomez is 1-for-7 (.143).
The Rays should get Tommy Pham back from his latest injury. Pham was resting a sore groin Wednesday.
"He's missed enough time already with some fluke injuries that were out of his control," Cash said. "So I think two days off will really do well. But he came in today feeling better."
The Orioles released veteran Craig Gentry on Wednesday, a surprising move for a September team going nowhere. Gentry had been designated for assignment last Friday.