It’s not an easy thing for an MLB team to win two baseball games in the span of a day. This is an even tougher task to ask of a team when, in the second game, their best starting pitcher - in this case, the Orioles’ Chris Tillman - gives up six earned runs. Even so, the O’s kept chipping away at the Rays lead and took game two, 8-6, to sweep the doubleheader.
The O’s victory is their fourth in a row and the doubleheader sweep guarantees that they will gain at least a half game on every one of their division rivals today no matter who won or lost their own games. It’s good to have a good offense.
Continuous struggles for Tillman
Things didn’t start well for Tillman as he surrendered a leadoff double to Logan Forsythe right out of the gate. They didn’t really get better. Corey Dickerson singled, moving up the runner to third, where he eventually scored on a Logan Morrison single to put the Orioles in an early 1-0 hole.
Tillman escaped that jam but kept running into trouble afterwards. In the case of the second inning, when Tillman surrendered a home run to Hank Conger (career OPS of .667) it was trouble entirely of his own making. That’s the guy you should get out. Instead, the Orioles trailed 2-0 after two innings.
You might have thought that Tillman would eventually stop allowing runs, and you would be correct, but unfortunately that inning did not prove to be the third inning, not even after Tillman retired the first two batters in the inning. Consecutive singles by Morrison and Brad Miller got a rally going. Desmond Jennings kept the rally going with an RBI double to score Morrison.
Here Tillman really lost control, walking Oswaldo Arcia, already DFA’d by one team this year, to load the bases, and then, once the bases were loaded, walking in a run by walking in Conger. Stop failing against Hank Conger! The result was that the Orioles then trailed by 4-0.
They nearly trailed by more. Immediately after the bases loaded walk, Jaff Decker ripped a screaming liner that was diving for the right-center field gap. Though the ball was tailing away from Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, he laid out for a dramatic catch that saved two or three runs:
This was a huge catch that kept the game from getting truly out of control. Not even a four run lead is insurmountable to these Orioles, who have scored at least three runs in every single game they’ve played in June.
Now seating the Dong Party
One reason why the Orioles are never out of the game is because they hit lots of dongs. They are capable of scoring in other ways, as when their own 8-9 combo, Nolan Reimold and Joey Rickard, added up a double and a single to drive in the first Orioles run in the third inning.
An inning later came the first of the dongs. Mark Trumbo drove a one-out double down down the left field line, which put him on base when Rays starter Jake Odorizzi left the wrong pitch in the wrong place when throwing to catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters blasted a ball onto Eutaw Street, pulling the Orioles, at least momentarily, back within a run at 4-3.
Unfortunately, Tillman’s struggles were not over. After his team got him back into the game, Tillman tried to chase them back out of it the next inning. Back-to-back doubles by Morrison and Miller plated a fifth Rays run. A bunt and a sacrifice fly scored Miller to extend the Rays lead to three runs once again.
After five innings, that was finally it for Tillman. He coughed up six runs on ten hits and two walks and only struck out two batters. That’s a bad day.
What, were you worried? OK, I was worried. But the important thing is that the Orioles themselves weren’t worried. Jones delivered a fifth inning solo home run, his fifteenth of the year, to make it a 6-4 hole for the O’s. Not ideal, but not insurmountable, especially since, once Tillman left the game, the Orioles bullpen did not surrender a run.
Not that T.J. McFarland, up as the 26th man for the doubleheader, didn’t try to make it worse. Forsythe and Dickerson ended up on second and third with one out and the O’s chose to intentionally walk Evan Longoria to load the bases. McFarland finally got the ground ball he needed and it went 4-6-3 for an inning-ending double play.
Odorizzi started the sixth inning for the Rays. Chris Davis was waiting there to greet him by blasting a home run that cleared the fence into the Orioles bullpen, just barely out of the reach of a leaping Jennings. That is #17 of the year for Davis, and importantly for this game, brought the Orioles back within a run.
Other ways to get runs also exist
McFarland, pitching the seventh, allowed a leadoff single to Miller and got another double play. That’s what you want to do! McFarland pitched two scoreless innings despite putting four men on base.
And then the Orioles struck again, because that’s what they do, most of the time. They score runs. Rickard welcomed Rays pitcher Erasmo Ramirez into the game with a double and he used his speed to score as Jones poked a single into right field. Quite suddenly, the game was tied and the crowd of 33,040 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was rocking.
Ramirez got the hook after allowing another single to Machado, putting two men on. Rays manager Kevin Cash brought on his lefty reliever, Xavier Cedeño, to face the O’s lefty, Davis. A good idea in general, but on this occasion, Davis was able to rip a single over the first baseman’s head and into right field, scoring the go-ahead run to put the O’s up 7-6.
That run was the only one the Orioles would need, although things got at least marginally interesting even though the Orioles deployed their good relievers once they’d taken a late lead. Brad Brach issued a walk to Conger leading off the eighth - seriously, why?! - and ended up walking Decker as well, who was trying to bunt and give up an out.
Maybe he was just adding to the degree of difficulty. Now that he’d turned over the lineup, Brach struck out Forsythe, got a lazy fly ball from Dickerson, and struck out Longoria to end the shenanigans.
Wieters added his second home run of the night in the bottom of the eighth inning for an insurance run to give a little extra peace of mind... not that you really need it when closer Zach Britton’s involved. Jennings hit an infield single with two outs but that was all. The Rays never seriously threatend there. Pinch hitter Tim Beckham ended the game by grounding out to Jonathan Schoop.
It was a heck of a win for the Orioles, who got 14 hits and, thanks to 4-7 hitting with runners in scoring position, only left four men on base. Every Oriole got at least one hit.
The Rays have now lost ten games in a row, so yeah, the Orioles are doing all of this in against a last place team, but you can only beat the team you’re playing that day and the Orioles did it twice today. They don’t have to give it back.
Even though the Blue Jays won today, the Orioles won two games, so they extend their lead to four games. The Red Sox presently trail by six runs, so if that result holds, the O’s gained a game and a half on Boston on Saturday and will lead the division by three games. They are 14 games over .500, on pace to win 96 games. The Orioles have a bad starting rotation and it doesn’t matter - they’re still a good baseball team to date.
They’ll look to make it a four game sweep in three days on Sunday afternoon. Tyler Wilson and Drew Smyly are the scheduled starters for the 1:35 series finale.