This was one of those weird games that seemed close and destined for a disappointing finish until it wasn't.
At the outset, you had to feel good about the O's chances with Jake Arrieta facing off against Andy Sonnanstine, but early opportunities squandered and home runs being surrendered to punchless wonders tend to shake one's confidence. Through three innings, the O's had smacked three doubles (one by Nick Markakis, two by Vlad Guerrero) and managed to score three runs without delivering a knockout blow. In the bottom of the 3rd, Tampa utilityman Elliott Johnson led off the inning with his first career home run, then Sonnanstine appeared to settle down in the 4th and the Rays got back another run in the bottom of the inning. The worm appeared to turn yet again when Nick Markakis absolutely crushed a lead off homer in the top of the 5th. After opening the 6th with a walk to Johnny Damon, Jake Arrieta shut down the Rays in the 6th and then?
Well, to say the wheels came off for the Rays would put it mildly. How could Joe Maddon possibly know what a fatal move removing Andy Sonnanstine would prove to be? At any rate, Rob Delaney opened the 6th on the hill for the Rays and commenced failing at the task with which he was charged. Delaney was outfoxed by the Good Doctor, who worked a walk (yes, that's right...a walk) and then took second during the next at bat, which would end with Matt Wieters being walked. Reynolds followed Wieters and if you would have asked me which of the three true outcomes was imminent at the time, I would have tersely replied, "K." Reynolds also worked a walk and at that point, Maddon had seen enough of Delaney. Cesar Ramos was brought in to face J.J. Hardy and what followed, friends, can be classified as one of the most Birdlandish moments of this young season: Hardy smoked a 2-0 pitch deep down the line in left for a grand slam to give the O's an 8-2 lead and essentially wrap up the ballgame.
Arrieta didn't have his most dominating outing today, but he struck out 7 and gave six quality innings to earn his 5th win of the season. As has been a constant theme this season, the ump called an erratic game and Jim Johnson seemed to have a rough go of things as a result in his appearance. On the defensive side of things, Markakis looked great out in right today and Wieters threw out his 12th base runner of the season, snuffing out an attempted Tampa rally with Zobrist at bat.
The O's are now 7-9 against the East and head in to Boston for a two game set under a full head of steam. Rock on completely.