It took 11 innings, but the Orioles topped the Rays 6-5 at Tropicana Field on Thursday night to avoid a sweep to wrap up the road trip. The bullpen blew a lead, and the lineup blew several run-scoring chances throughout the game, but it all still added up to a win.
The argument could be made that this was Andrew Cashner’s finest start of the season. The big right-hander seemed to have all of his pitches working. That didn’t stop the Rays from squaring him up a few times, but Cashner was in control for most of the evening.
However, things did not start out well for Cashner. Austin Meadows ambushed him with a double to lead off the first inning, and then immediately scored on a single from Tommy Pham. Just like that, the Rays took a 1-0 lead.
From there, Cashner settled in and allowed just one more run, a solo shot off the bat of Pham in the third inning. He worked around some rough defense from “first baseman” Renato Nunez behind him, and finished up the fifth inning with a strikeout to strand two runners on base. His final line of five innings, two runs, five hits, one walk and strikeouts looks even more impressive considering he did it against the red hot Rays.
Meanwhile, the O’s offense was filling up the bases but not really making the most of their opportunities.
Nothing came of the three baserunners the Orioles had in the first two innings of the game. But they did break through in the third. Trey Mancini reached base with a one-out double and then moved to third on a double by Dwight Smith Jr. A single from Nunez scored Mancini and then an infield hit by Joey Rickard plated Smith to give the O’s a momentary lead prior to Pham’s homer.
Pedro Severino reclaimed the advantage for the good guys in the fourth inning with a mammoth home run to left field, his first round-tripper of the season. It came just a few minutes after Severino had thrown out a base-runner to end the Rays half of the third inning.
Between the Severino home run and the next time the Orioles would score, they would strand six runners on base. It felt like the type of thing that just might come back to bite them.
The O’s did finally extend their lead in the seventh inning. Rickard led off with a triple and then came in to score on a Richie Martin single. Martin made it to second on the throw home, but was then caught in a run down when he rounded second base and slipped. He was eventually tagged out, once again thwarting a chance for the Orioles to score.
It become a 5-2 game in the eighth inning without the Orioles even registering another hit. Jonathan Villar walked and then moved to second on a wild pitch. A Mancini flyout to center fielder allowed Villar to tag up and advance to third, and then a Smith fly out to center scored Villar.
It was then all up to the Orioles bullpen to wrap up the win. Unsurprisingly, they were not up to the task.
Paul Fry walked Ji-Man Choi to begin the eighth inning and was then removed in favor or Evan Phillips. It was not Phillips’s best outing. He faced three hitters: a walk, a strikeout and a two-run double. Mychal Givens then came on to complete the eighth inning.
Givens stayed on for the ninth inning to try for the five-out save. He would come up two outs short. After striking out Adames, Givens elevated a 96 mph fastball to Avisail Garcia, who swung and smoked a game-tying home run to center field, sending this one to extra innings.
We’ve seen this movie before, right? Any momentum that existed was located entirely in the Rays dugout. Not to mention, the O’s had already used their two most reliable relievers, Givens and Jimmy Yacabonis. This only ends one way.
Alas, this is not a cinematic adventure. It’s boring old real life, and the Orioles were able to rebound and register the win they sorta/kinda deserved.
Perhaps the most important person in climbing back to win was John Means. The southpaw has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen this season. For the time being, he is a reliever once again, and he was called upon to give the O’s some length in extra innings. He ended up tossing two scoreless innings and struck out four batters while leaving heavily on his trusty changeup. At this moment, Means is the team’s best hurler, and it’s by quite some distance.
The winning run came home in the top of the 11th inning. With two outs, Chris Davis singled up the middle and went from first to third on a blooper single to left field by Rio Ruiz. Rickard came to the plate next and laced a double down the left field line to score Davis. Ruiz was also waved around but was then thrown out by at least 10 feet at home. Nonetheless, the O’s had their lead again. Means took care of the rest in the bottom of the frame to secure victory with the help of a nice diving play by Cedric Mullins in center.
This game encapsulated a lot of what makes this Orioles team fun and infuriating. They manufacture runs. The bullpen has (many) weak spots. But above all, they are scrappy and give the opposing team a tough game most nights. It all makes them entertaining to watch and easy to root for. You can’t ask for much more in year one of a massive rebuild.
The O’s will now hop on a plane back to Baltimore as they prepare to host Jonathan Schoop and the Minnesota Twins for a weekend series at Camden Yards. Alex Cobb (0-0, 3.18 ERA) will return from the IL on Friday and start for the Birds. He will be opposed by Jose Berrios. (2-1, 2.30 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 18, 2019?
This poll is closed
Joey Rickard (4-for-5, 2B, 3B, game-winning RBI)
Pedro Severino (solid defense, massive DONG)
Andrew Cashner (5.0 IP, solid start)
John Means (W, 2.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4 SO)