The series finale between these two AL East foes started with threats from both offenses but no action early as far as runs scored. It was scoreless until the third, when the Orioles were able to tally a run with the long ball.
The O’s wasted no time making trouble for Yonny Chirinos but he was able to wriggle out of it in the first. By the time there were two outs, the Orioles had loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batter. But the home team wasn’t able to convert any runs as DJ Stewart grounded out weakly to first.
It only took 1.2 innings for the Rays to cycle through their lineup and they went 4-for-9 over that span while striking out three times. Even though Orioles starter Tommy Milone kept allowing base runners he also kept leaving them stranded. The lefty’s changeup was working today, helping him rack-up strikeouts all day long.
In his second career start with the O’s, Milone only got better as the game went on. The second time through the order the Rays went 1-for-9 while Milone racked up four more strikeouts.
For comparison, the crafty left-hander allowed two hits and two walks the first time through the opponent batting the order on Opening Day in Boston. The Red Sox went 3-for-6 with two walks the second time through in that game.
The scoreless tie against the Rays on this occasion was broken in the third when Renato Nunez jacked a home run to left to give the O’s a 1-0 lead. Nunez has really heated up at the plate since the Rays rolled into town. In the first two games of this series, he was 3-for-8 with a home run and two walks.
With the Orioles trying to tack a run onto their slim lead in the fifth, they took a risk on the basepaths that did not pay off. Anthony Santander, who reached on a single to right and moved to second on a groundout, tried to score on a single by Jose Iglesias. Rays right-fielder Hunter Renfroe fielded the ball cleanly and fired a strike to home plate. Santander was tagged out on a head first slide. Upon review, the call was upheld.
With the outing today, Milone lowered his ERA from 12.00 to 5.63. He totaled 83 pitches (55 strikes) over five innings while allowing six hits and striking out eight batters. He did not allow any walks. The only run charged to Milone - on a solo homer off the bat of former Maryland Terrapin Brandon Lowe - came in the sixth and directly preceeded his removal from the game.
On the relievers’ side, Miguel Castro took over for Milone in the sixth and threw a scoreless inning on 11 pitches. After throwing 20 pitches in 1.2 innings last night, Evan Phillips threw 14 pitches today en route to a scoreless seventh.
Not to be held down for long, the O’s lineup added three runs to gain the lead in the bottom of the seventh. It started with superb base running and continued with clutch hitting. Cedric Mullins flashed his speed more than once; on a bunt single, stolen base and sprint home from second on a Hanser Alberto double. Two batters later Nunez came through as well with an RBI single up the middle. Two batters after that, Iglesias slashed a double of his own to drive home Nunez. 4-1, O’s.
Interestingly enough, manager Brandon Hyde brought de-facto closer Cole Sulser on to start the eighth. In his previous two appearances, Sulser had come on in the ninth. Back in his first outing of the year — July 26 against the Red Sox — he pitched the eighth and ninth innings. Today, Sulser retired the side in order on nine pitches. Would he come back out for the final inning?
In the home half of the eighth, Pat Valaika flashed some power and added an insurance run in the process. He cranked a solo shot over the fence in center, evading the leap of Kevin Kiermaier. 5-1, Orioles.
With the save opportunity no longer in play, television cameras showed Mychal Givens warming in the O’s bullpen during the bottom of the eighth. But Sulser came back out for the final inning and rewarded Hyde’s faith by putting Tampa down 1-2-3 to end the game.
Wait, hold on a minute. Can we talk about Chance Sisco’s ability to not make outs real quick? So far this season he’s reach base in seven of 11 plate appearances, including two hits, four walks and one HBP, meaning his OBP is currently .636. Before he was replaced today for pinch-hitter Iglesias, Sisco took one for the team and roped a single to right-center.
How refreshing it is — and we can only hope this lasts — to see the O’s pitching staff do well early on in this freakish season? They set a new club record today for consecutive games with 10+ strikeouts (5).
From the starter to the relievers to the batters, Baltimore showed a solid all-around effort and truly earned the win today against the Rays and the series sweep. They head into tomorrow’s off-day riding high and will look to continue their momentum on Tuesday with the Marlins tentatively scheduled to travel to Camden Yards for make-up games.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Sunday, August 2?
This poll is closed
Renato Nunez (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
Hanser Alberto (3-for-5, RBI)
Jose Iglesias (2-for-2, RBI)
Tommy Milone (5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 8 SO)
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.