LEADING OFF: Orioles streak into Tampa; early break in LA

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Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, left, acknowledges starting pitcher Spenser Watkins' strikeout of Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ, center, to end the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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The Baltimore Orioles are riding a 10-game winning streak, they're contending for a wild-card spot, and they're somehow still in last place in the AL East.

All five teams in baseball's strongest division have winning records, including the surprising Orioles, who are 45-44 thanks to their first 10-0 stretch since 1999.

They get a chance to do some damage against their division rivals starting Friday when they open a three-game series at Tampa Bay. Baltimore hasn't faced an AL East opponent since winning two of three at home against the Rays from June 17-19.

Tyler Wells, a 27-year-old second-year right-hander in his first year as a starter, takes the mound for Baltimore. He's 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA and has allowed three runs or fewer in all but one of his 17 starts — a season-opening loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Luis Patiño (0-1, 13.50 ERA) is expected to start for Tampa Bay.

Like the rest of Baltimore's staff, Wells has thrived while throwing to rookie catcher Adley Rutschman, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft who was promoted from the minors on May 21. The Orioles were 16-24 when they called up Rutschman and are 29-20 since.


Both Los Angeles teams get to stay in Southern California ahead of next week's All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium — and they even get an extra day off Sunday. But those are about the only similarities between the Angels and Dodgers.

The Dodgers have won 12 of 14, enjoy a nine-game lead in the NL West and will send reliable-as-ever Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.40 ERA) to the mound for Friday night's opener of a two-game series at Angel Stadium.

The Angels had lost nine of 11 heading into Thursday night's game AL West-leading Houston and find themselves in a familiar position: well outside playoff contention despite one of MLB's biggest payrolls and the individual brilliance of All-Stars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.

Patrick Sandoval (3-4, 2.95) starts for the Angels on Friday.


Xander Bogaerts and the Boston Red Sox get a rematch with the New York Yankees when the longtime rivals open a three-game series in the Bronx that will take them into the All-Star break. The teams split a four-game set last weekend at Fenway Park.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.16 ERA) is expected to return from injury to start for the scuffling Red Sox against his former team. Eovaldi has been sidelined since June 9 with lower back inflammation.

Jordan Montgomery (3-2, 3.19) gets the ball for the Yankees, who have the best record in the majors and a big lead in the AL East. But they’ll be without starting pitcher Luis Severino for a while after the right-hander was placed on the 15-day injured list Thursday with a low-grade strain to his right latissimus dorsi muscle.

New York is 4-3 against the Red Sox this season.


Miami's Sandy Alcantara gets one more chance to audition for the NL's starting spot in the All-Star Game.

The Marlins' ace carries a scoreless streak of 19 1/3 innings into Friday night's home game against Kyle Gibson (4-3, 4.53 ERA) and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Alcantara is 9-3 and leads the majors in innings (130 1/3) and the NL in ERA (1.73). His two complete games are tied for the big-league lead. He has one of the most dominant fastballs in the majors, averaging 97.8 mph with his four-seamer and 97.6 mph with his sinker.

The right-hander made his big league debut with St. Louis in 2018 and earned his first All-Star selection in 2019 with the Marlins. This year he's already matched his career high in wins for a Miami team that's in wild-card contention at 43-45.


Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager said it will be “surreal” to make his Dodger Stadium return next week as an AL All-Star after being selected Thursday as an injury replacement for Toronto’s George Springer.

“It’s a place that’s meant a lot to me,” said Seager, a two-time Dodgers All-Star over seven seasons who signed with Texas in December for 10 years and $325 million. “You don’t know how those emotions are going to be until you get there.”

Seager is hitting .246 with 21 home runs and 50 RBI. He’s already within five homers of matching his career high, set in 2016.

Seager was also placed in the field for Monday night’s Home Run Derby. His first-round opponent will be Seattle Mariners rookie outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

The Rangers and Mariners are playing a four-game series through Sunday, taking both teams to the All-Star break.


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