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Bullpen can’t hang onto the late lead, Orioles lose to Rays 6-4

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The Orioles were one strike away from a win, but Brad Brach and Darren O’Day couldn’t get the job done late on Friday night.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Some games over the course of the 162-game baseball season are heartbreaking, and Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays most certainly fell into that category. The Orioles couldn’t hold onto the late-inning lead, dropping the first game of the weekend set in disappointing fashion.

Below, the details of a wild AL East battle that didn’t end in the home team’s favor.

The recap

Chris Tillman got the ball for the Orioles tonight and carried his 8.39 ERA into the game against Tampa Bay starter Jacob Faria. The two traded zeroes in the first inning, but the Rays got on the board first in the bottom of the second.

After Steven Souza Jr. singled with one out, Tillman got ahead of the count to Rays catcher Wilson Ramos but failed to capitalize on his 1-2 offering. He hung a slider and Ramos didn’t miss it, sending it over the outfield wall out of the reach of Adam Jones in center. The first runs of the game went to Tampa and put the visitors up 2-0 early.

Faria’s last start, you might remember, was against the Orioles back on June 24th and despite the late-inning O’s win, the 23-year-old righty tossed well. He fanned seven in six innings and allowed three, a good start that carried over to the beginning of Friday night’s outing.

He mostly rolled through lineup the first time through, but the recently-hot bat of Joey Rickard struck in the bottom of the third to put the Orioles on the board for the first time. With Welington Castillo on first, Rickard poked a double into the left-center gap that kicked all the way to the wall. It was hit perfectly to give Castillo enough time to cross the plate and make it a 2-1 ballgame.

Moving forward through the next few innings, Chris Tillman settled down and really kept the Tampa Bay lineup in check. Despite a few scattered hits, he settled down through five innings and certainly kept the Orioles in the game with superb command.

Joey Rickard helped with a pair of highlight-reel catches in the fifth inning, the balls in play kindly found outfielders and Tillman cruised following the two-run homer in the second inning. He looked poised to put up his best start of the year — that is, until the sixth inning.

With the score still at 2-1, a switch almost seemed to be flipped in Tillman’s game. The command was suddenly lost without warning. Evan Longoria singled on a 3-1 count, Logan Morrison walked on four pitches, Souza Jr. took a free base and almost in the blink of an eye, Tillman had loaded the bases with nobody out and forced Buck Showalter to make the call to the bullpen after 92 pitches.

In the moment, the game had all the signs of disaster striking as Miguel Castro entered the game. But as he’s done multiple times this season, the young reliever stepped up and pitched like a veteran in a big moment.

Only nine pitches later, the inning was over with the score unchanged. After Ramos grounded into a 5-2-3 double play, Castro used his sinker/slider combination to strike out Tim Beckham and end the threat with an exclamation mark. It’s not how you’d typically draw up a scoreless inning, though it certainly didn’t lack the excitement.

Tillman’s night was saved and his final line looked like this: 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. His season ERA was lowered to 7.90.

Just when you thought the Rays would take command of this Friday night game, the narrative of this one took a wild turn, going one step further with Joey Rickard’s leadoff at-bat in the sixth. Already owning a double to his column on the scorebook, Rickard took a Faria breaking ball and got just enough of it to clear the wall in left.

Just like that, with just two hits to the Orioles’ name heading into the seventh, the game was tied. Baseball really is a strange game.

Faria continued to pitch well in just his fifth big-league outing, but he couldn’t get out of the seventh inning without allowing the game’s go-ahead run to the heart of the Orioles lineup. Following the signing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Jones led off the bottom of the frame with a double (combined with a fielding error), advancing to third base to set the stage for Mark Trumbo, who cashed in to put the Birds ahead.

Trumbo laced a hard-hit single to left, coming through in the clutch to get the first home lead of the night, a 3-2 advantage for the O’s. That’s all the offense would muster in the inning, but it was enough to send the game to the heart of the bullpen with a one-run edge.

Flash forward to the bottom of the ninth and the Orioles are just one strike away from winning the game — but this is baseball, and especially during Orioles baseball, nothing is ever easy. With two outs, Brach couldn’t put away Shane Peterson and walked him, giving Tampa the opportunity to tie the game. And with an odd twist of events, they did just that.

After the free pass, a balk was called on Brach to send Peterson to second. That put the runner in scoring position for Adeiny Hechavarria, the unstoppable nine-hole hitter (odd, I know). For the fourth time on the night he singled, allowing Peterson to cross the plate and make it a brand new game.

Jumbo Diaz retired the Orioles in order in the bottom of the ninth, sending this one into extra innings. And while the free baseball didn’t seem too disappointing, the optimism didn’t last terribly long into Darren O’Day’s appearance.

With two on and one out following a leadoff walk, Souza Jr. grabbed the game’s momentum with one big swing. The Rays right-fielder took an O’Day slider and crushed it to straight-away center field, his third hit of the night that was gone as soon as it hit the bat. Three runs later, this game was all but wrapped up.

Mark Trumbo led off the bottom of the 10th with his 11th HR of the year, a result that would’ve meant a whole lot more if it would have occurred a few innings earlier. Trey Mancini, Castillo and Hyun Soo Kim went down in order after the round-tripper and failed to complete the game’s second comeback.

6-4 was the final, a difficult finish in a hard-fought Friday night battle.

The loss puts the Orioles back under .500 with the record at 39-40 heading into tomorrow’s 4:05 first pitch. Dylan Bundy will take the hill in an attempt to even up the series against Jake Odorizzi.