It was a good start for the Orioles on Thursday. A very good start.
And then the rest of the night happened.
The rest of the night included the Orioles setting the major league record for home runs allowed in a season, a two-hour, 16-minute rain delay, and a Tampa Bay rally only moments after the tarp came off, one that held up as the Rays came away with a 5-2 victory in the opening contest of the three-game set between the AL East rivals.
Start with the rather dubious accomplishment. It came in the top of the third inning, when Austin Meadows turned on an Asher Wojciechowski breaking ball and hit it off the top of the right field wall and out for a home run, cutting the Rays’ deficit to 2-1. It was Baltimore’s 259th home run allowed, breaking the mark set by the Cincinnati Reds in 2016.
And yet, for a while, it looked like that record might be expunged when the rain that had started innings earlier picked up and forced umpires to call the game in the bottom of the fifth. Because the fifth hadn’t been completed, there was the possibility that the game could be called, and the stats wiped out with it.
That didn’t happen - the Orioles just wish it did.
Instead, what did happen was that, immediately after the teams resumed play at 11 p.m. and with the score tied at 2, Tampa Bay escaped an Oriole threat, then started one of its own. Miguel Castro came in for the sixth and the Rays did what all teams do against Miguel Castro, getting first a one-out walk from Jesus Aguilar and then a double from Matt Duffy into the left-field corner, putting runners at second and third.
Willy Adames was up next and he lined a single to left, scoring both Aguilar and Duffy, who had gotten a great jump from second.
It was all the offense the Rays needed - though they added a run in the ninth when Meadows doubled and later scored on a wild pitch by Gabriel “Doesn’t Matter When You Pitch Me, I’m Giving Up Runs” Ynoa - because while the Orioles threatened in later innings, they couldn’t cash in.
The Orioles tried their first rally in the sixth, when Anthony Santander blooped a one-out single and Renato Nunez walked, but Jonathan Villar flew out and Pedro Severino struck out to spoil the chance. Baltimore tried again in the seventh when Stevie Wilkerson and Jace Peterson were hit by pitches with one out, but Hanser Alberto hit a hard grounder to short that Adames was able to slide, field and turn into a force out at third, and Trey Mancini struck out to strand the two runners.
The O’s had one more bullet in the chamber and appeared to be using it in the eighth when Santander walked and Nunez singled to again put two runners on, this time with no outs. It was the same ending, however; Villar chopped to third, Rio Ruiz popped up, and DJ Stewart fought back from a 3-0 count to pop up to second, making the O’s 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position for the night.
A 1-2-3 ninth capped a night that featured terrible weather and the Orioles setting a season-long record for futility in August, but things actually started well for the Birds. In the first, Alberto reached to lead off the game when his slow roller to short forced Adames to throw wildly for an error, and Mancini followed by roping a double down the line. Adames’s relay throw home skipped wildly past catcher Travis d’Arnaud and out of play, allowing both Alberto and Mancini to come home for a 2-0 lead.
That was all the Orioles would muster against starter Ryan Yarbrough. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay rallied back with the long ball. Meadows had the first homer when his fly ball to right went for history-making No. 259 in the third, and Adames followed suit in the fifth when he hit the first pitch of the at-bat from Wojciechowski over the wall in right, tying the game at 2.
The lead was gone, but hopes for the Birds were high. Spirits picked up first when Wojciechowski prevented further damage in the fifth by escaping a bases-loaded jam, and then when the Orioles in the bottom half got a lead-off, opposite-field double from Stewart, ending Yarbrough’s streak of 11 retired batters in a row.
One out later, Peterson came up, found himself with a 1-2 count - and that’s where the game stopped for the two-hour-plus delay. When it ended, Peterson struck out, and Alberto hit a comebacker to the mound to end the threat with the score still tied at 2.
Unfortunately for the Orioles and their fans, it wouldn’t stay tied for long.