The great news about this game is that the Orioles won, securing a series win and remaining undefeated on the year. Contained within that great news are both good and bad points in this second game of the season. The Orioles scored six runs, which will win you a game on most nights, and the O's bullpen looked solid other than one rough moment from Kevin Gausman. The flip side to that is that the bats fell asleep after the second inning and starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen struggled and failed to get complete five innings. But hey, a win is a win, right?
In the Rays' perfect world, Nathan Karns belongs at the back of the rotation at best. But due to their injuries, he found himself starting the second game of the season for Tampa Bay. The Orioles didn't even give him a chance to get settled in on the mound before they were knocking him all over the park. The first four batters of the game reached base against him, starting with three straight singles from Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce, and Travis Snider. Snider knocked in the first run of the day, then two runs came in to score on a lovely double from Adam Jones. After a Chris Davis strikeout and a wild pitch that moved Jones over to third, Manny Machado capped off the scoring with a long sacrifice fly to make the score 4-0.
Before the Orioles and their fans could come down from that high, Wei-Yin Chen turned in a beauty of a first inning, needing just eight pitches to get the first three Rays batters. It looked like a great start for Chen, but first impressions can be deceiving. He labored through the second inning despite not allowing any runs to score. He allowed two baserunners and seemingly forgot how many outs there were when Rene Rivera grounded back to him with one out. He nonchalantly tossed to first base as the runners moved to second and third. The failure to get the double play added more pitches to his tally as he needed eight pitches to strike out Tim Beckham and end the inning.
As for the offense, they continued their onslaught in the second inning. Caleb Joseph led off with a walk, and with two outs Steve Pearce staved off regression for another day by launching a home run to left field. It was a beauty, and gave the Orioles a 6-0 lead. It was hard to imagine at the time, but that home run was the second to last hit that the Orioles had in the entire game. And just as the bats quieted down, that's when things started to go poorly for Chen.
Kevin Kiermaier started the third inning and and hit a long fly ball to left field. De Aza misplayed the fly ball into a triple, which was a shame. It would have been a tough catch if he had made it, but he looked like he was going to be in the right place, and then it sailed over his head. Keirmaier then came in a ground ball out, but Chen was able to contain the damage to just the one run.
Things got a little uglier in the fourth inning when Chen gave up a home run to Logan Forsythe with Evan Longoria on base, and he finished the inning with 81 pitches thrown. He came back out for the fifth and after getting one out he hit Brandon Guyer and walked Steven Souza, and that was it for Chen. He just didn't seem to have it tonight, which hopefully is just a one-time thing.
Kevin Gausman followed Chen, his first appearance of the season. The two runners on base executed a double steal against him, but it didn't phase him. He struck out Asdrubal Cabrera for the second out, then carefully pitched around Longoria to put him on first base. Before I could get worried about the bases being loaded, Gausman got Desmond Jennings to hit a broken bat pop up to shortstop to end the inning.
Gausman was throwing gas tonight, with more than one pitch hitting triple digits on the radar gun. But he wasn't able to keep the Rays off the board in the sixth inning. He walked Forsythe and then that annoying Kiermaier struck again. this time with a two-run homer to center field. That cut the O's lead to just one run, and suddenly things were very uncomfortable. But Gausman got the next two batters and then turned it over to Darren O'Day who retired all four batters he faced to take the Orioles into the ninth inning.
The last four paragraphs have been exclusively about the O's pitching, because there was no more offense to speak of. They did take a few walks, more than you normally see from this team, but twice Adam Jones grounded into double plays to end any hope of a rally. Thankfully the Rays were only able to score five unanswered runs.
Zach Britton came in to get the save in the ninth, and while it wasn't his easiest inning ever (he went to a full count on all three batters) he did strike out the side to end the game. Well done, Zach! It wasn't always easy (in the postgame, Buck Showalter said it felt like he had a root canal tonight), but they got the job done. Tomorrow Miguel Gonzalez will take the mound for the Orioles as they go for the sweep.