This time, the rally gets the job done
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.