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Orioles beat Rays, 3-1, even though they only got three hits

How the heck did that happen? Well, it helped that one of the Orioles three hits was a three run home run hit by Rule 5 sensation Joey Rickard.

The Orioles are still waiting for their offense to break out of the slump in which they've become mired. That doesn't mean they are incapable of finding a way to win a game in the meantime. All it takes is a combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting at just the right time. They beat the Rays, 3-1, carrying a shutout until the Rays were down to their last out in the ninth.

Hitting woes have not been solved yet. The Orioles only picked up three hits over the whole of the game. Absent any context, you would look at that and think this was another pathetic output, just like the three games prior. But one of the three hits was a fifth inning home run off the bat of Joey Rickard, and as it turned out, before Rickard hit that two out homer, Nolan Reimold drew a walk and Jonathan Schoop hit a single.

The result was something that surely left Earl Weaver smiling down from above. Yes, that most beautiful of home runs, the three run homer. Well, beautiful as long as it's the Orioles who have hit it. That was the second home run of the season for Rickard. He now has as many home runs as Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Pedro Alvarez combined.

Breaking out of the home run drought

Before Rickard's home run, the O's had not gotten a homer since the second inning of Saturday's win over the Royals. That is a long drought for this team, and Rickard could hardly have broken it at a better time.

Until the ninth inning, there was no other scoring in the game. Chris Tillman made sure that lead stuck by turning in a good start - like, an actual good start, not just a "good start" as graded on the curve for Orioles starting pitchers. He cruised, mostly uneventfully, through 6.2 innings and very nearly completed the seventh before his second walk of the night sent him to the showers.

At 101 pitches, it was just the right time for the hook, and perhaps a sign that manager Buck Showalter has learned from recent games in which he left the starter in just a bit too long. When you get 6.2 innings from the starter, you don't need to try to get greedy and push it farther. The final line on Tillman was no runs on two hits and two walks, with nine strikeouts recording.

Unlike Tillman, Rays starter Matt Moore was able to finish the seventh inning. Moore also struck out nine batters against two walks - but one of his three hits was the three run home run, so he wore the three earned runs and took the loss in the game. Former Orioles Ryan Webb and Dana Eveland each pitched a 1-2-3 inning in relief of Moore.

Although the Rays never scored and only picked up two hits and two walks while Tillman was in the game, they still managed to threaten. In the fourth inning, Logan Forsythe hit a single to lead off. That was the first Rays baserunner of the game. Tillman then issued a walk to .148 hitter Brad Miller.

Both runners tagged and advanced on a deep fly ball out to center field by Evan Longoria, giving the Rays two shots with two men in scoring position. Tillman hunkered down to strike out Corey Dickerson, then got a sky high popup behind the plate from Desmond Jennings. The threat was over. There were no more threats. The Rays did not get a runner into scoring position again until the ninth inning.

Neither did the Orioles. Actually, after the Rickard home run, the Orioles did not get any more runners at base at all, save for a brief moment in the ninth inning when Chris Davis was signaled safe at first base on what was scored an error. However, the Rays challenged this play and replay confirmed that Rays first baseman Logan Morrison had his foot on the base when he caught a throw from short right field. Davis had hit right into the shift, like you do.

The O's ended up using their bullpen in a bit of a different way than the usual. Darren O'Day came on to get the final out of the seventh inning, which he did successfully to close the book on Tillman. Rather than have O'Day come back out for the eighth inning, Showalter went to Brad Brach for the eighth. Brach pitched on Tuesday as well, so he's probably out of commission unless things get very desperate tomorrow.

Things get a little tense, but not too tense

It was in the ninth inning against Zach Britton that the Rays got another chance. Longoria led off the inning with a single, though he was quickly erased when pinch hitter Brandon Guyer hit into a fielder's choice that developed too slowly to be a double play. Jennings haplessly struck out against Britton, bringing the Rays down to their last out.

As fate would have it, that batter was Steve Pearce. Guyer advanced to second base on fielder's indifference. Pearce broke up the shutout with a single that scored Guyer. For the first time the Rays brought the tying run to the plate. Oh no! Don't worry - Britton's still the man. Stephen Souza chopped a ball to J.J. Hardy, who fired to first to beat Souza to the bag. Game over, man. Game over.

The two teams combined for seven hits in the game. It wasn't pretty or exciting. It wasn't a sign that the Orioles slump is over. But it was a win, and a win is a win. The O's keep hold of first place in the division, holding at half a game over the Red Sox, who had the good fortune of playing the hapless Braves this week.

The O's escape the Trop avoiding the sweep. They'll head back to Baltimore for a ten game homestand that kicks off with the first of four games against the White Sox. Tyler Wilson and John Danks are the scheduled starters for the 7:05 series opener on Thursday.