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