An incredibly tight American League East race will ultimately come down to pitching. And for both the Orioles and Rays, getting a little more help from their starters would go a long way.
Tampa Bay has spent the past three weeks -- from April 13 to May 5 -- with the worst ERA in baseball, a 5.34 mark for the staff and a 5.68 mark for the starters. Since David Price's complete game, the Rays have averaged five innings over their past 13 contests.
The O's, who got a solid outing in Tuesday's 5-3 win from righty Chris Tillman, added lefty T.J. McFarland to help avoid overtaxing the bullpen. They've had just 10 quality starts on the year and have gotten starts of 5 1/3 innings or fewer in four of their last six games.
"Sometimes you try too hard, but for the most part we have to be more efficient," Baltimore pitching coach Dave Wallace said. "It's really difficult to have 23-25 pitch innings and expect to go deep in the ballgames. And when you repeat that two or three times over the first five innings ... It's been interesting. It's one of those things that is a constant work in progress.
"We talk about it. However, if you talk too much about it, then it snowballs from a mental standpoint. So, you have to be a little bit delicate with it."
The O's will send Bud Norris to the mound on Wednesday. The right-hander is coming off a 5 1/3-inning outing against the Pirates, but had a streak of three consecutive starts of at least six prior to that one.
Norris will be opposed by Cesar Ramos, who pitched an inning in relief against the Yankees on Saturday, and said he didn't think that will affect Wednesday's start.
Ramos, coming on the heels of Chris Archer's five innings, said it's important that he go at least six innings against the Orioles.
"That one extra inning is one guy [relief pitcher] you're saving," he said. "Any time you get in six innings, that's huge."
Ramos is coming off a game against Boston when he threw a career-high 95 pitches over 4 2/3 innings and will face an Orioles lineup that entered the series with the AL's best road average.
"It's a power-heavy lineup," he said. "It's just a matter of getting ahead of hitters and keeping the ball down."
Orioles: Wieters to see Dr. Andrews:
Catcher Matt Wieters, who was not behind the plate for Tuesday's game against the Rays, will see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday about nagging right elbow soreness.
Wieters missed a game in Toronto two weeks ago with what he described as right forearm soreness, but was back in the lineup the following day. He said he first felt that discomfort throwing to second base during one of the team's cold night games in Boston last month.
Wieters was the Orioles' designated hitter on Tuesday, with backup Steve Clevenger handling the catching duties.
Rays: Cobb progressing
After personally monitoring Alex Cobb's bullpen session prior to Tuesday night's game, manager Joe Maddon predicted "if there are no setbacks, we could see him pitching by the end of the month.
"That was pretty impressive," Maddon said. "Cobber is feeling really good. He had really good stuff. He's not far off."
Maddon said the next step for Cobb, who has been on the disabled list with a strained left oblique since April 13, may be to throw a situational bullpen "in a couple of days."
• Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings was named the American League Player of the Week after leading baseball in total bases last week.
• The Orioles recalled McFarland prior to Tuesday's game against the Rays, while right-hander Brad Brach was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
• First baseman Chris Davis continues to progress ahead of schedule, although the Orioles slugger -- eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday -- is not expected to be ready to play by then.
"He's in a good spot in the process comparatively speaking," manager Buck Showalter said of Davis, who took 25 swings in the batting cages and 30 throws out on the field.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.