The Orioles overcame a rocky debut by starter Bruce Zimmermann, claimed a two-run lead in the fourth, but fell apart late once again. Tampa Bay used small ball in a big fifth inning, and the Rays completed a doubleheader sweep with a 10-6 victory.
DJ Stewart gave the Birds their first and only lead of the game with a two-run, two-out double in the top of the fourth, but Baltimore gave it right back on a Joey Wendle two-run shot. Baltimore failed to score for the rest of the contest, while Tampa hung four on the O’s in the fifth inning.
Cole Sulser walked leadoff batter Mike Brosseau to immediately put himself at a disadvantage. Brosseau stole second without a throw, and moved up to third on an infield single and throwing error by Rio Ruiz. Nate Lowe broke a 6-6 tie with a single to center, and Brandon Hyde elected to pull Sulser there.
Hyde called on Dillon Tate to minimize the damage, but Tampa had other plans. In an extremely frustrating series of events, the Rays managed to out-bunt the league-leading Orioles.
Manuel Margot nearly gave himself up with a sacrifice, but a quality bunt led to a rushed throw. Tate’s toss to first pulled Mountcastle well off the bag, and suddenly the bases were juiced with nobody out. Kevan Smith followed with a swinging bunt down the third base line, and Tate was forced to field once again. Tate’s off-balance throw hit base runner Willy Adames, and everybody reached once again.
Wendle and Randy Arozarena followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies to deep left field that gave the Rays a four-run advantage. Evan Phillips came on to record the final out of the inning, but the damage had been done.
The Orioles competed as the away team in a makeup contest despite the game being played at Camden Yards. Baltimore went down in order in the sixth, and brought the tying run to the on-deck circle before a Ruiz groundout ended the game.
The Orioles and Rays both finished with 10 hits, but Tampa made the most of their opportunities. Zimmermann recorded the first out of the game on his first pitch, but allowed a pair of base runners to reach with a walk and hit by pitch. Zimmermann forced Brosseau to pop out for the second out, but surrendered a three-run homer to Willy Adames. Adames struck out in all four of his at bats in game one, but put enough muscle behind a line drive to give the Rays an early lead.
Hanser Alberto put the O’s on the board with a solo shot in the second, and Ryan Mountcastle drove in DJ Stewart with a double that skipped past right fielder Hunter Renfroe in the third.
Chance Sisco led off the fourth with a bloop single, and Ruiz evened the score at four with a no-doubter to right field. Pat Valaika reached on an infield single, and Cedric Mullins punched a ball the other way before Stewart brought both men home with a double off the wall in right.
Zimmermann struggled to fool a talented Rays lineup through three plus innings. He allowed two home runs, and was charged with his fifth earned run of the night when Travis Lakins allowed an inherited runner to score in the fourth. Zimmermann tossed 52 pitches, 32 for strikes, and struck out two.
While Zimmermann’s debut fell short of expectations, O’s fans must realize we’ve been a little spoiled lately with rookie performances. Not every pitcher will come up and find success like Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, and not every hitter will come up and mash like Mountcastle. Playing in the majors is extremely difficult, and facing the first place Rays on short notice would be a challenge for any pitcher.
The true disappointment of the evening stemmed from the bullpen relinquishing the lead in the second half of an abridged game. Sulser’s struggles continued, while Tate simply couldn’t catch a break. Still, when the offense shows up these days, the Orioles need to take advantage.
The pair of defeats brought Baltimore to 22-29 on the season. Several MLB teams are hovering around 21-22 wins at the moment, so the O’s still have time to “improve” their draft position before the end of the season.
Hyde said before the game that Zimmermann would have an opportunity to pitch again this season. He may have struggled today, but I’m guessing any guy with a mustache like that doesn’t just give up and call it quits.
For what it’s worth, neither will the Orioles. They’ll pick things back up tomorrow evening with Alex Cobb on the mound.