O’s can’t hold leads, are unable to sweep
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The Orioles were unable to pull off their first three-game road sweep of the season, falling, 7-6, to the Tampa Bay Rays in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles took the lead three times but failed to hold it each time. Reliever Mychal Givens yielded a two-out RBI double to Corey Dickerson in the seventh inning to break a tie at 6.
The Orioles entered the day one game behind the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Orioles (76-63) head to Detroit — the Tigers entered Wednesday one game behind them for the second AL wild card — for three games before ending their nine-game road trip in Boston.
“I tell our guys to stay focused on how much fun it is to be playing these types of games,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Our guys aren’t dreading it all. They are looking forward to being in that arena, to being on that stage because they’ve earned the right to be there. Lot of clubs would love to change places with us.”
Givens was one strike away from pitching a scoreless seventh before Dickerson’s eventual game-winning hit. Givens had struck out two of the three batters he faced, but allowed a single to Mikie Mahtook, who scored when Dickerson lifted a ball into the gap in left-center, just out of the reach of center fielder Adam Jones.
Givens (8-2) has allowed seven runs in eight innings over his past eight appearances, for a 7.88 ERA.
After pulling away in the first two games of the series, the Orioles let the Rays (59-79) hang around but also didn’t get a third straight strong starting pitching performance. Rookie Dylan Bundy failed to make it out of the fourth inning for his shortest outing in 10 starts.
Bundy’s shortest two starts of his brief career have come against the Rays. Bundy allowed five runs over 32⁄ innings Wednesday, his shortest start since he went just 31⁄ in his first major league start July 17 at the Rays.
The Orioles regained the lead in the fifth inning on newcomer Drew Stubbs’ run-scoring single. But Dickerson’s two-out RBI single off reliever Oliver Drake in the bottom of the fifth inning tied the game at 6. The Orioles had just one hit over the final four innings.
Rays left-hander Drew Smyly had his shortest start of the season, as the Orioles chased him after 32⁄ innings. He allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks.
Smyly was hurt by two wild pitches in the second inning, including one that put two runners in scoring position before J.J. Hardy’s two-run double. Another run scored on a passed ball in the third.
Trailing by a run, the Orioles put the tying run in scoring position with one out in the eighth — Stubbs drew a leadoff walk and Reliever Oliver Drake gave up a twoout RBI single to Corey Dickerson in the fifth inning to tie the game at 6. moved to second on a sacrifice bunt — but Jones and Michael Bourn struck out. A good impression: Late-August trade acquisitions Bourn and Stubbs made their first starts with the Orioles on Wednesday and both contributed offensively.
Bourn, who entered the day 4-for-9 in his career off Smyly, hit a solo homer off him to open the third, tying the game at 3. It was Bourn’s first home run off a left-hander since Aug. 17, 2013.
“I’m thankful for the home run,” Bourn said, “but I wanted to get that victory.”
Stubbs reached base three times — on two singles and a walk — and had a two-out RBI single off Rays reliever Ryan Garton in the fifth to give the Orioles a 6-5 lead.
“We knew that Bourn had a little luck off Smyly and I wanted to get him out there,” Showalter said. “Drew, it helps us as we go down the road what we can expect from them. We are also in a time of need of some guys who are banged up.”
Starters: Kevin Gausman (7-10, 3.58) vs. Tigers’ Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.77) The Tigers entered Wednesday with the lowest ERA in the AL since the All-Star break (3.46). The O’s are at 4.41.