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SEA@TB: Cobb fans six, holds Mariners to one run

The Orioles will try to keep pace with the Rays in the race for the postseason as the two teams play the second game of their three-game set on Tuesday at Camden Yards.

Tampa Bay took the first game, 4-3, extending its lead over Baltimore in the American League Wild Card race to 4 1/2 games.

On the hill for the Rays will be Alex Cobb in just his second start since returning from a concussion caused by a line drive to his head.

"I'm excited to go out there and compete like a normal game and not feel like I'm limited to 90 pitches," Cobb said. "Though I'm sure there will still be some restrictions, [I'll] just go out there and compete in a very meaningful game."

Cobb tossed five innings of one-run ball against the Mariners his last time out, notching six strikeouts, but admitted he's still shaking off some rust as he returns to his pre-injury state.

"There's about three different points that I was at last game: I'm out of sync, in sync and extremely tired," he said after that start. "So hopefully, we'll eliminate two of those next outing and be good."

Cobb will be opposed by right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who's coming off a second straight quality start.

Gonzalez went seven strong innings in his previous outing, allowing two earned runs on five hits, with three strikeouts, but he walked away with the no-decision thanks to a late D-backs rally.

"I thought Miguel pitched outstanding," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "He pitched well enough to win."

The Orioles would like to see more of that from Gonzalez on Tuesday as they embark on a very tough stretch run that will bring them to season's end and that consists almost exclusively of AL East teams, plus Wild Card contenders in Oakland and Cleveland. In addition, Baltimore has just one off-day in September.

"It's something we should be looking forward to," Showalter said. "Not some sense of negativity at all. Believe me, our guys aren't [negative] at all. We have a lot of respect for the competition.

"It's going to be a ride, because you've got to keep your emotions and sense of reality, because the season's not going to end on one night."

Orioles: Roberts finding his stroke
Despite going 0-for-5 as the leadoff hitter on Monday, Brian Roberts has begun to find his stroke at the plate nearly seven weeks since returning from a ruptured tendon in his right knee.

Roberts entered the game on a roll, with two doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in his previous seven games. He also walked five times and scored four runs over those seven contests.

"I think the game has started to slow down again," Roberts said. "I've made some adjustments, and that's kind of the way the season goes for everybody.

"When you've been out for three months, you've got to go through a mini-Spring Training almost. It's unfortunate that's the way it is."

The 35-year-old veteran hasn't played a full season since 2009, likely contributing some to the time he needed to adjust and feel comfortable at the plate. Although he claims he's no longer the same athlete he was when he was 25, Roberts is enjoying his metamorphosis into his current role.

"You adapt to who you are as you move forward," said Roberts. "But I think in some ways I'm back to where I used to be [more] than I had been in a long time, and that's fun."

Rays: Moore nearing return to mound
After being sidelined for nearly three weeks with soreness in his left elbow, Matt Moore took the next step toward returning to the mound.

Moore played catch prior to Monday's game vs. the Orioles, and barring any setbacks will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday and a simulated game over the weekend.

"Today went really well," Moore said. "We played catch with pretty hard intensity. I wouldn't say it was like I was throwing it as hard as I could with no regard. It was probably, like, 90 percent at the most. ... Everything went really good. I'm planning on tomorrow being another day like today. With the long-toss program ... possibly a bullpen on Wednesday.

"Wednesday will be the day before the off-day, so I'll come back on Friday and see where I'm at, hopefully working into a sim game after this bullpen on Wednesday."

Ideally, the 23-year-old left-hander would like to return early next week for the Rays' series with the Angels, but manager Joe Maddon thinks a more likely scenario would have Moore back in the rotation by the end of the month for the West Coast trip.

"We badly want him back, but not at the expense of rushing him," Maddon said.  

Worth noting
• With Monday's loss, the Orioles trail the season series with the Rays, 8-5, including a 2-5 record at Camden Yards.

• Since breaking into the big leagues in 2009, Matt Wieters' .337 average against the Rays is the highest among players with at least 40 games played. His 14 home runs, including Monday's solo shot, is good for fourth, behind Jose Bautista (19), Robinson Cano (15) and Adam Lind (15).

• In 13 games against the Orioles this season, the Rays have been much more successful offensively than they were last year. After scoring 61 runs in 18 games in 2012, they have 77 so far in 2013.

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