This time, the rally gets the job done

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES - By Peter Sch­muck peter.sch­muck@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Sch­muck­S­top

The Ori­oles seemed dead-set on los­ing an­other game to the last-place Tampa Bay Rays — and los­ing more ground to the first­place Bos­ton Red Sox — but the Rays wouldn’t al­low it.

The Ori­oles fell be­hind early for the sec­ond straight night and squan­dered a chance to over­take the Rays in the sev­enth in­ning. But Tampa Bay re­liever Brad Boxberger gift-wrapped an­other bases­loaded sit­u­a­tion in the eighth and the Ori­oles fi­nally took ad­van­tage. They scored twice and sur­vived a dra­matic fin­ish on the way to a 5-4 win Fri­day night be­fore an an­nounced 30,094 that kept them within two games of first place in the Amer­i­can League East.

Boxberger handed no-out walks to Jonathan Schoop and Pe­dro Al­varez, then hit Matt Wi­eters with a pitch to fill the bases. This time, the team that couldn’t make con­tact in sev­eral big sit­u­a­tions the night be­fore was able to punch across the ty­ing run on a sin­gle by J.J. Hardy and go ahead on a sac­ri­fice fly by Michael Bourn.

It took eight in­nings, but the Ori­oles re­bounded from a sec­ond straight first-in­ning wake-up call from Rays third base­man Evan Lon­go­ria, whose three-run homer be­gan the un­rav­el­ing of Yo­vani Gal­lardo on Thurs­day night and whose two-run shot Fri­day put Ubaldo Jimenez on the im­me­di­ate de­fen­sive.

Ori­oles pitch­ers have been vul­ner­a­ble in the first in­ning this sea­son, but man­ager Buck Showal­ter said the im­por­tant thing is what hap­pens af­ter a starter fal­ters early.

“That’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m more in­ter­ested in the end prod­uct — the end game.”

This was a se­ries the Ori­oles (81-66) needed to win to po­si­tion them­selves for the up­com­ing four-game set against the first­place Bos­ton Red Sox, but the mo­men­tum pen­du­lum took a hard U-turn as soon as they got home. They could not re­cover from Gal­lardo’s poor per­for­mance Thurs­day night and then got gut-punched from afar when the Red Sox scored five runs in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning to beat the New York Yan­kees.

On Fri­day night, when they got that big chance to send the pen­du­lum back in the other di­rec­tion in the sev­enth in­ning, flashy Rays cen­ter fielder Kevin Kier­maier leaped over the cen­ter-field fence to pull a po­ten­tial grand slam by Hyun Soo Kim back into the ball­park. The Ori­oles got one run in­stead of four, then Manny Machado and Chris Davis struck out to leave the bases loaded.

Closer Zach Brit­ton con­verted his 44th save in as many op­por­tu­ni­ties, but not be­fore the streak sur­vived some high drama. Steve Souza Jr. put the re­sult in dan­ger with a long fly ball to left that was caught be Bourn, and that wasn’t all. Mikie Mah­took hit a bouncer up the mid­dle that car­omed off the sec­ond base bag for a hit and Alexei Ramirez sin­gled down the left-field line to bring Mah­took streak­ing around third for the po­ten­tial ty­ing run.

Bourn scooped the ball up and found Machado, who made a per­fect re­lay to get Mah­took at the plate. The Rays chal­lenged the play, but it stood.

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