Too many times, the Orioles have been on the other side of a game like tonight. They get a few timely hits, pitch well enough to win the game, but are eventually done in late. Tonight, the Orioles were the team breaking through in the final inning, but they still found themselves hanging on for dear life.
The Orioles exploded in the top of the ninth to break a tie and gain a six-run lead, but the Rays did not go quietly. Tampa Bay brought the tying run to the plate, but Shawn Armstrong came on to clinch a 9-6 victory for Baltimore.
Anthony Santander took the place of Chris Davis and worked a five-pitch walk to lead off the ninth. Rio Ruiz, who jacked a three-run home run earlier in the game, executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Santander into scoring position. After pinch hitter Pedro Severino stepped in to replace Keon Broxton, Rays closer José Alvarado spiked a fastball well short of the plate that bounced to the backstop and allowed Santander to advance to third.
With the infield in, Severino grounded to the left side of the infield. Santander did not hesitate, and beat the throw home with a head first slide to give Baltimore the advantage. Jonathan Villar followed with a line drive to center that landed in front of a diving Guillermo Heredia. The ball trickled all the way to the wall, and Severino worked his way around the bases. Villar dove into third for a triple, and suddenly the O’s were in control.
All-Star snub Trey Mancini followed with another ground ball to short, and Villar broke for the plate. The shortstop should have been dead on arrival, but the ball escaped the glove of catcher Mike Zunino when he applied the tag. The Orioles led by three.
Chance Sisco followed with another bouncer in the infield, this time to the right side, but Sisco dove into first base before a covering Alvarado received the throw. With two on, Renato Nunez stepped in and provided the exclamation mark. Nunez blasted a ball 412 feet into the left field seats, and the Orioles held a six run advantage.
Richard Bleier began warming up before the Birds took the lead, and he was warm well before the bottom half of the ninth. Bleier faltered when he finally took the mound, but the Orioles had plenty of insurance. Still, nothing is easy for the Orioles in 2019.
Bleier plunked the lead off batter, and Austin Meadows followed with a single. Michael Brosseau drove in a run with a single before Zunino fouled out. The game nearly ended when Joey Wendle bounced a ball to second base, but Wendle beat out the throw to avoid a double play and keep the Rays alive.
Heredia followed with a double down the right field line, and Wendle came around to score. The Rays had cut Baltimore’s lead in half, and things were starting to tense up. Willy Adames followed with an infield single up the middle, and suddenly the tying run was at the plate.
Brandon Hyde had seen enough of Bleier, and summoned Armstrong from the pen. Armstrong fired two quick strikes to Tommy Pham, but Pham took the next three pitches to work the count full. Fortunately for the Orioles, Pham took one too many pitches. Armstrong saved the day with a four-seam fastball on the outside corner, and the Birds escaped with a 9-6 win.
The Rays struck first after a costly throwing error by Ruiz led to the first run of the ball game. Ruiz made up for his mistake in a big way in the following inning. After singles by Hanser Alberto and Davis, Ruiz cranked an Earl Weaver special 407 feet to give the Birds a 3-1 advantage.
John Means pitched efficiently, and made it through seven innings with less than 100 pitches. His final stat line read 7 frames, 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned, 5 K’s and zero walks. Means did not receive a decision, and Mychal Givens earned the win in relief. Givens pitched a scoreless eighth, and Armstrong notched the save with his strikeout to end the game.
Givens prevented the Rays from taking the lead in the bottom of the eighth with a tremendous defensive play. With a runner on third, Givens fielded a weak ground ball by Yandy Diaz and dove to tag out pinch runner Kevin Kiermaier at the plate. The play was reviewed, and the crew confirmed that Givens applied the tag.
The Orioles avoided a sweep and moved to 25-61 on the season. The Orioles are off tomorrow before heading north of the border to face the Blue Jays.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Wednesday, July 3?
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John Means (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 Ks)
Renato Nunez (2-for-5, three-run HR)
Rio Ruiz (2-for-4, three-run HR)
Mychal Givens (scoreless IP, run-preventing defensive play)