The O's beat the Rays tonight to avoid the sweep but as usual, didn't make it easy. Starter Brian Matusz pitched a great game right up until his last batter and big nights at the plate for Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold were enough to get Matusz his second win on the year.
The Orioles were unable to capitalize on early opportunities against Rays starter James Shields. They got to him for five hits in the first three innings but couldn't score. They finally broke through in the 5th as Felix Pie, who had reached base via single and moved to third on a Brian Roberts hit, scored on a Cesar Izturis ground out. They'd only get one in the 5th, but it was just an appetizer for things to come.
Nolan Reimold led off the 6th inning with a ground ball to Evan Longoria. Longoria airmailed the throw and Nolan Reimold advanced to second base. After a fly out by New Aubrey, Shields sandwiched a Chad Moeller strikeout between walks of Ty Wiggington and Felix Pie. With the bases loaded and two outs, Joe Maddon went to his bullpen for Lance Cormier. The former Oriole is having a great year with Tampa Bay but wouldn't show that to the Orioles tonight. Cormier fell behind Brian Roberts 3-1 and delivered an inside pitch that both Brian Roberts and Game Day thought was a ball, but the umpire didn't. The Rays probably thought they caught a break by avoiding the bases loaded walk, but their minds were certainly changed in a hurry when Brian put the next pitch into the right field stands for his fourth career grand slam.
Just like that the other Brian went into the bottom of the 6th with a four run lead. Matusz had pitched a great game to that point. After allowing back-to-back doubles to Ben Zobrist and Longoria in the first that scored one run, Matusz allowed just one hit, a 2nd inning single to Dioner Navarro, over the next four innings. After finally getting a lead, however, he ran into trouble. Singles by Jason Bartlett and Evan Longoria set the table for Ben Zobrist, who came through with a 3 run HR to right, cutting the O's lead to 5-4. The HR knocked Matusz out of the game and made his start look worse than it was. Matusz allowed 7 hits over his 5.1 innings, and struck out 7 for the second straight game. The best news is that Matusz didn't allow a walk, something he'd had some trouble with since arriving in the MLB. He kept a very good offense down, at one point retiring 13 of 14 batters. Not too shabby.
With the O's up by only one run in the 7th, Lance Cormier continued to help out his old team by walking Luke Scott and Nick Markakis. With two on and no outs, Russ Springer entered the game to face Nolan Reimold. The rookie outfielder picked up his teammate, the rookie starting pitcher, with a line drive over the left field fence. Just like that the O's were again up by four runs.
Kam Mickolio, who had relieved Matusz in the 6th, made short work of Navarro, Upton, and Bartlett in the 7th. Mickolio still has yet to allow a run in the majors this year, now in 8.1 innings. Unfortunately Kam couldn't pitch the rest of the game and Danys Baez came in to try and hold the 4 run lead. Both he and Mark Hendrickson were unsuccessful as Baez loaded the bases and Hendrickson unloaded them. With two outs and the O's lead back to just one run, new dad Jim Johnson cleaned up their mess by retiring Gregg Zaun. JJ returned for the 9th and earned his 5th save on the year, striking out Evan Longoria to end the game. O's win!