Streaking Rays beat Orioles 3-1 to maintain lead in AL East

It’s the time of year when teams in contention start scoreboard watching, a trait that rings true even during a shortened 60-game season played in empty ballparks.

The AL East-leading Tampa Bay are doing it. And for the moment, they’re looking down at the competition in the standings.

Charlie Morton pitched five effective innings and the Rays used home runs by Yoshi Tsutsugo and Randy Arozarena to beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 Saturday nike nfl jerseys china

With a playoff berth already in hand, the Rays’ next objective is to win the division title for the third time in franchise history. Although the second-place Yankees beat Boston on Saturday night to remain 3 1/2 games back, Tampa Bay whittled its magic number to clinch the division to four.

“I think that’s been a driving factor for everybody in this clubhouse since this all started,” manager Kevin Cash said before the game. “We want to keep cutting and reducing that number down.”4

The Rays have won seven of nine to forge the best record in the AL (35-18). If they can maintain it, they will earn the top seed in the AL playoffs.

“We’re starting to pay attention a little bit to what’s going on around the league,” Morton said, “The Yankees are playing great baseball now. It’s in our hands, it’s in our control. That’s all you can really ask for. We’re in a good spot.”

Arozarena’s two-run drive in the fifth off Jorge Lopez (2-1) put the Rays up 3-1, and that was enough offense to ring up another win over the skidding Orioles. Tampa Bay will try to complete a five-game sweep on Sunday.

Morton (2-2) allowed one run and five hits, walking two and striking out six. It was his best outing since leaving the injured list on Sept. 2 following a bout with right shoulder inflammation.

Ryan Thompson, the last of three Tampa Bay relievers, got two outs for his first career save. The Rays have had a dozen different pitchers earn saves, tying the 1973 Texas Rangers’ single-season mark (since saves became an official statistic in 1969).cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“It just shows how talented we think our guys and how trusting we are,” Cash said. “You don’t do that with guys if they’re not equipped to do it.”

The Orioles were 20-21 on Sept. 8 and in contention for a playoff spot. They have since lost 10 of 12.