O’s go back to bread and but­ter for vic­tory over Rays

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

There was one ques­tion lin­ger­ing around Cam­den Yards be­fore the Ori­oles and Tampa Bay Rays faced off for the fi­nal time this year Sun­day, one that has been asked for years about the Ori­oles: How se­ri­ous a threat can a team be when it’s re­ly­ing on a strug­gling starter like Wade Mi­ley to sal­vage a se­ries split against a bot­tom-feeder in Septem­ber?

The an­swer, just like the ques­tion, re­mains what it’s al­ways been for the Ori­oles. When you boast a full-strength bullpen with three All-Stars and a pair of thriv­ing rook­ies, plus the most pow­er­ful lineup in a gen­er­a­tion, so many flaws can be ob­scured.

The Ori­oles bullpen, which ran out its top five re­liev­ers for an in­ning apiece af­ter Mi­ley left with a back strain be­fore the fifth in­ning, had just one blem­ish in a 2-1win over the Rays. Homeruns by third base­man Manny Machado in the sixth in­ning and right fielder Mark Trumbo in the eighth erased that early deficit. Catcher Caleb Joseph and closer Zach Brit­ton cel­e­brate the Ori­oles’ 2-1 vic­tory Sun­day for a se­ries split against the Rays.

What be­gan as yet another oc­ca­sion to won­der about the Ori­oles’ start­ing-ro­ta­tion depth be­came an op­por­tu­nity to ac­knowl­edge just what this Ori­oles team was built to do.

“I think it’s a pretty good ex­am­ple of what we do,” Trumbo said.

To get to the point where Ori­oles slug­gers could do what they do best, the bullpen had to step up in rare cir­cum­stances. Mi­ley was car­ry­ing a shutout into the fifth in­ning when a back strain he suf­fered an in­ning be­fore wors­ened, and he left the game.

That brought the quick re­turn of right-han­der Dar­ren O’Day, whose first ap­pear­ance af­ter miss­ing five weeks with a ro­ta­tor cuff strain came in un­fa­mil­iar cir­cum­stances, and it showed. He al­lowed a first-pitch home run to des­ig­nated hit­ter Corey Dick­er­son, then set­tled in to set the bar for what the rest of the re­liev­ers had to do, get­ting out of the in­ning oth­er­wise un­scathed with two strike­outs.

The two rookie pitch­ers who fol­lowed him, left-han­der Don­nie Hart and right-han­der My­chal Givens, were the big­gest benefi- cia­ries of O’Day’s re­cent ab­sence. Man­ager Buck Showal­ter leaned heav­ily on O’Day against left­handed hit­ters out of ne­ces­sity, but since he went out, Showal­ter’s trusted Hart more and more.

It wasn’t sim­ple Sun­day, with Hart load­ing the bases with one out on a sin­gle, a walk and a sin­gle. But he got out of it with an in­ning-end­ing dou­ble play that ex­tended his ca­reer- open­ing streak of not hav­ing al­lowed an earned run to 142⁄ in­nings over 17 ap­pear­ances. He was un­de­terred when the two right-handed hit­ters he faced — third base­man Evan Lon­go­ria and right fielder Steven Souza Jr. — sin­gled and put him in a jam.

Givens, who en­tered the day hav­ing al­lowed one run in seven Septem­ber ap­pear­ances, had two strike­outs in a clean sev­enth, and Brad Brach did the same in the eighth in­ning.

“Any­time rook­ies can get in­nings like that is huge, es­pe­cially in a sit­u­a­tion when the game is on the line,” Brach said. “That’s great for them, and the in­nings in June and July are def­i­nitely pay­ing off right now.”

Showal­ter said hav­ing O’Day re­join the bullpen could be a boon

MITCHELL LAY­TON/GETTY IM­AGES

MITCHELL LAY­TON/GETTY IM­AGES

Mark Trumbo watches his tie-break­ing home run in the eighth in­ning. It was his 43rd of the sea­son and his 12th that gave the Ori­oles the lead.

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