Tampa Bay Rays (34-49) at Baltimore Orioles (42-38), 1:35 p.m. (ET)

06/29/2014 10:08 AM

06/29/2014 10:08 AM

(SportsNetwork.com) - Baltimore aims to earn a split of a four-game series with Tampa Bay when the Orioles host the Rays this afternoon at Camden Yards.

Despite alternating wins and losses over the last six outings, the Orioles are still within striking distance of first place in the American League East, just 1 1/2 games behind division-leading Toronto entering play on Sunday.

On Saturday the O's fell behind by five runs by the fourth inning before making a push against Tampa Bay, an effort that came up short as the hosts suffered the 5-4 setback.

The Rays used three home runs to gain the advantage early on as Desmond Jennings, Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier all went deep for the visitors. Forsythe finished with two RBI and two runs scored for a Tampa Bay squad that has won three of the last four outings, but is still a dismal 15 games under .500 and all alone at the bottom of the AL East standings.

Erik Bedard earned the win as he permitted three runs on five hits, striking out seven in as many innings. Entering in the eighth, Jake McGee secured his third save of the campaign.

Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen lasted a mere 3 1/3 innings after being knocked around for five runs and seven hits, including all three home runs by the visitors. Chen walked two and struck out a pair during his 82-pitch effort, the shortest outing of his career.

"Velocity wasn't as high as we've seen [Chen] in the past," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon commented. "He's really good, but I think primarily the velocity on the fastball was down just a click."

"Lately, I've been leaving more pitches up in the zone," Chen said. "Maybe the opposing hitters are studying me more than they used to, so if I don't make the adjustment necessary, the results are going to look bad."

Manny Machado struck out twice for the O's, but also had one of the team's two home runs as he plated a pair in the eighth inning. Nick Markakis added a solo shot, one of his two hits in the meeting.

Taking the hill for the Rays this afternoon is Alex Cobb. The right-hander, who has a career mark of 3-1 in five appearances against Baltimore, dropped a decision to the O's just 11 days ago when he gave up just a single unearned run on four hits and four walks, while striking out six in seven innings at home.

Mote recently, Cobb was rocked by Pittsburgh on Monday in an 8-1 setback. During that contest he permitted six runs on as many hits and a trio of walks in only five innings of work. As a result, Cobb has now dropped five of his last six outings.

Now in just his second season with the Orioles, Miguel Gonzalez is set to counter on the mound today. The right-hander has lost in two of his last three outings and is now a game under .500 overall at 4-5.

On Tuesday Gonzalez scattered nine hits over five innings versus the Chicago White Sox at home, leading to three runs.

Like Cobb, Gonzalez also played a part in the most recent series between these clubs, but in his case he was the winning pitcher in the 7-5 decision on June 17 when he surrendered four runs on eight hits in five innings. For his career, Gonzalez is 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA.

Despite the setback yesterday, Baltimore is still dominating the head-to-head meetings with the Rays in 2014, winning eight of 11 contests.

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