Yesterday, the Orioles were shut out by the Rays. Today, they flipped the script and pitched a shutout of their own. The second of the home away from home series for the Orioles came down to starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez having the number of Rays batters. He blanked the Rays over 7.2 innings, allowing only five baserunners the whole time. Unlike the day before, the Orioles took advantage of this strong pitching performance and they collected a 4-0 shutout win to pull their record back to .500.
Saturday, as with Friday, Rays batters recorded only four hits for the entire game. Most of the time your pitching staff pulls off that feat, you're going to win the game. That wasn't the case on Friday, of course, but Saturday balanced out that ledger. The Rays never even had multiple baserunners in the same inning until the eighth inning. Logan Forsythe singled to lead off the inning and was still on first base two batters later. Gonzalez ended up walking David DeJesus, and, with 105 pitches, manager Buck Showalter felt like it was time to make the change.
On this occasion, it was Brad Brach who strolled across the carpet from the bullpen. He ended that eighth inning threat by getting Steven Souza Jr. to hit into a harmless foul pop-up behind home plate. Works for me. Brach went on to pitch a completely drama-free ninth. Since he entered the game with the tying run on deck, Brach gets credited for a save even though the final score was 4-0. That is the first save of his MLB career.
With only seven hits in the game, the O's offense didn't exactly light the box score on fire. What was different from Friday is that they actually managed to string together baserunners in the same inning. Isn't it funny how good things happen when they do that?
Manny Machado got things started with a walk in the third inning - already the team's third walk of the game, with nothing to show for the two walks taken in the second inning. Jimmy Paredes followed Machado's walk with a base hit and Machado took third base on an Adam Jones flyout. One Chris Davis shift-beater later and the Orioles were on the board, one run that would prove to be all they'd need. Not that they knew that at the time.
For good measure, they scored a couple more. Steve Pearce drove a ball that carried all the way to the fence in right-center field, far enough that, with two outs, even Davis could score from first base. This play ended up with Pearce being tagged out at third base after attempting to advance on a throw to the plate.
Hardly a TOOTBLAN. As I saw it, the Rays played this poorly, with catcher Bobby Wilson stepping out rather than trying to make a play on Davis, who may well have been out. Instead, he got Pearce. Well, good for you, guy. You caught him. You caught the Tater. You can take those roadblocks down now.
This was the second game in a row at second base for Pearce. It's still weird. Even weirder is that, for the second straight game, there wasn't a whole lot of drama involved in his fielding that position. By not a whole lot I mean that there was none at all. Pearce only had to field one grounder in eight innings and catch a couple of balls thrown right to his glove at second base.
It turns out that you can stick a guy who has exactly zero professional innings of experience at second base for two games and, as long as they're the right two games, there are no consequences whatsoever to this action. Did the Orioles get lucky or was this all part of some madcap master plan? That's the big question of the whole of the last four seasons, really.
The Orioles scored their fourth run in the sixth inning. Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer made a particular pitch to Caleb Joseph, perhaps unaware that Joseph's kid has gotta eat. Joseph responded by absolutely tattooing the baseball, blasting it far into the left field seats for his second home run of the year. He is now batting .327/.439/.509 on the season. That's with a BABIP of .390, so it won't last, but hey, that doesn't mean it isn't awesome in the meantime.
Those were the highlights. Pretty much the only lowlight came when Kevin Kiermaier caught Adam Jones napping in the outfield and turned a single into a double leading off the third inning. Better if it happened, but no harm was done. Do better next time, Adam!
The win sets up a rubber game for Sunday afternoon. It'd be cool if the Orioles can manage to pull off a walkoff win in Tropicana Field before they stop being the home team here, but even cooler would be if they win by like ten runs and don't need to worry about drama in the bottom of the ninth.
Orioles starting pitchers now have three straight seven-plus inning starts. Wei-Yin Chen will look to add himself onto that streak tomorrow. He'll be opposed by Tampa Bay's Nathan Karns, against whom the Orioles scored six runs on April 7.