Tampa Bay (82-51) never won more than 70 games in its first 10 seasons - nine of which ended with last-place AL East finishes. This year, though, has been far different, as the Rays have been near the top of the standings all season and moved into the East lead to stay on July 18 - immediately following the All-Star break.
With a 14-3 victory in Friday night's series opener, the Rays clinched their first winning season with nearly one month still to play. They also maintained their 4 1/2-game division lead over defending World Series champion Boston.
"Going into spring training I knew we were better," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We just didn't know how much better. Eighty-two wins is a big moment, and I want this to be the standard of what we do, to get that number on an annual basis.
"You've got to break through the barrier eventually. We've done it, now let's move on down the road."
Ben Zobrist hit a grand slam and Cliff Floyd had five RBIs Friday for Tampa Bay, which broke open the game with a seven-run fourth inning. Surprisingly, it was only the seventh time this season in which the Rays scored five or more runs in an inning - the lowest such total in the majors.
"They're on a roll right now. They're playing very well at home," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said of the Rays, who are 50-19 in home games.
The big inning was an attainable feat against a Baltimore pitching staff which saw its ERA rise to 4.92 - third-highest in baseball. The Orioles (63-71) have dropped six of their last seven games, allowing eight runs or more four times in that stretch.
Seeking their seventh winning streak this season of at least four games, the Rays will send staff wins leader Andy Sonnanstine (13-6, 4.42 ERA) to the mound Saturday. Sonnanstine is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA in five starts this month.
The right-hander last pitched Sunday as the Rays lost 6-5 in 10 innings at the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox. Sonnanstine allowed four runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings.
Sonnanstine was dominant at Baltimore on April 30, when he yielded one run and six hits in eight innings of the Rays' 8-1 win. He is 2-2 with a 5.70 ERA in four career starts versus the Orioles.
Baltimore originally planned to start Daniel Cabrera in this game, but those plans changed Friday when he began serving a six-game suspension for throwing at the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez. Rookie Chris Waters (2-1, 4.71) will start in Cabrera's place.
Waters' turn has been moved up a day, but he'll pitch on regular rest thanks to a day off for the Orioles on Thursday. The left-hander, who has never faced Tampa Bay, suffered his first major league loss Monday against the Chicago White Sox, giving up four runs - three earned - and five hits in seven innings of a 4-3 defeat.
Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, batting .393 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs since the All-Star break, left Friday's game with a strained left hamstring and is day-to-day.