The Orioles returned to their June form of giving up 5+ runs per game in Sunday’s series finale against the Rays. Chris Tillman continued his disastrous 2017. For today at least, these things did not matter, because the Orioles offense was up to the task of overcoming Tillman’s struggles, scoring four late runs on the way to an 8-5 victory to take down the Rays in Tampa.
In winning the game and in turn the series, the Orioles collected their first road series win since the April 18-20 series in Cincinnati. You read that right. The Orioles road woes are not solved by one series win. None of their other problems are solved either. But winning the series and getting one game closer to a .500 record are both better than not.
For once, Tillman did not encounter any problems in the first inning. This allowed the O’s offense to get on the board first in the top of the second inning against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. The bottom of the lineup came through with two outs. Caleb Joseph started with a single, followed by a Craig Gentry double.
That set up a scoring chance for Paul Janish. Ordinarily, that would seem like a waste of time, but Janish surprised you and me and everyone by driving in the two runners with a single to give the Orioles an early 2-0 lead.
Over the next couple of innings, the O’s and Rays went back and forth adding a run apiece. Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. led off the bottom of that inning with a single. A Tillman wild pitch put Souza on second base.
Tillman retired the next two Rays and you might for a second have believed he would escape with no trouble. However, Rays second baseman/D&D bard Taylor Featherston drove in Souza with a single to put the Rays on the board.
Joseph added a third Orioles run with a solo shot to left field in the fourth inning. Tillman gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning, of course, after a one out single to Daniel Robertson. Attempting to pick off Robertson, Tillman instead threw the ball away and into the Rays bullpen area.
Robertson grabbed two bases on the error, allowing him to score a run on a Featherston sacrifice fly. Because of Tillman’s own error, this run was scored as unearned.
Still, that’s OK, right? Tillman had the Orioles with a lead through four innings. That’s better than he’s done a lot of games this season. Things went south in a hurry for Tillman, facing the top of the Rays lineup for the third time in the fifth inning. Mallex Smith and Corey Dickerson singled to open up the inning, bringing long-time Tillman nemesis Evan Longoria to the plate.
Longoria came into the game having faced Tillman 68 times. He has batted .302/.353/.778 against Tillman in that time, including eight home runs, the most that Longoria has hit against any pitcher. And some of those numbers came against Tillman in years where he was actually, you know, good, which he surely isn’t this year.
There was only one way for this to end. Longoria blasted off on Tillman, Longoria’s 12th of the season and Tillman’s 10th allowed, giving the Rays a 5-3 lead. One batter later, Tillman got the hook from the game. His final line saw him give up five runs, four earned on eight hits and two walks in just 4.1 innings. Ten baserunners in fewer than five innings is not so good.
Tillman entered the day with an 8.39 ERA. He ended the day with an 8.39 ERA. The Matusz Test has not had to consider a tie before. Because the unearned run was the only thing saving Tillman from a Matusz Test failure and Tillman himself committed that error, I’m ruling a Matusz Test failure anyway. Tillman’s brutal 2017 continues uninterrupted.
And you know what? On Sunday, that didn’t matter, because when the Orioles offense comes through the way that it can, even a dismal Tillman outing can’t stop them. Trey Mancini pulled the Orioles within a run with a solo shot in the sixth, his 14th of the year. That chased Odorizzi from the game. The Rays starter gave up four runs in 5.1 innings.
The O’s tied the game at 5-5 in the eighth inning when Jonathan Schoop took Chase Whitley deep to left field. That was Schoop’s 15th home run of the season, tying Manny Machado for the team lead. Just like that, it was a brand new ballgame.
Let’s not forget the Orioles bullpen holding the line after Tillman’s exit. Stefan Crichton, Richard Bleier, and Darren O’Day combined to keep the Rays off the board through the seventh inning. With the game suddenly tied, the O’s turned to Brad Brach in the newly-tied game in the bottom of the eighth inning.
That’s not a joke. Manager Buck Showalter went to his regular closer in a tie game on the road in the eighth inning. Brach gave up two hits in the eighth but never faced serious excitement because Joseph threw out a runner who tried to steal.
That set the table for the Orioles ninth inning rally. Joseph got things started with a single, his third hit of the game. A sacrifice bunt advanced Joseph, the go-ahead run, into scoring position. The Rays used an auto-intentional walk on pinch hitter Seth Smith to get a double play in order.
Not a bad idea with light-hitting Joey Rickard set up to face the Rays closer, Alex Colome, but Rickard ended up winning the battle, hitting a ground rule double that drove in Joseph. The Rays issued ANOTHER auto-IBB to Machado to set up a force at any base in an attempt to limit the damage.
Colome did not take advantage of the situation. He hit the next batter, Schoop, the second time the Rays hit Schoop in the game. This forced in the O’s seventh run. An Adam Jones sacrifice fly brought Rickard home to set up the 8-5 final score.
Despite Brach having already thrown 20 pitches in the eighth, he came out again for the ninth. There was no reason to worry. Brach mowed through three Rays and needed only six more pitches to do so. Just like that, the Orioles had their first road series win since April.
After a Monday off day, the Orioles will be in Toronto to face the Blue Jays for a three game series. Kevin Gausman and Joe Biagini are the currently scheduled pitchers for the 7:07 Tuesday series opener.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for June 25, 2017?
This poll is closed
Jonathan Schoop (2-3, game-tying HR, HBP twice)
Caleb Joseph (3-4, 3 runs scored, homer)
Brad Brach (two scoreless to lock down win)