It was an exciting matinee ballgame today at the Trop, but the Orioles came out on the wrong side of a 5-4 final score. The Birds made a valiant effort to come back from a 5-0 hole dug by starter Jorge Lopez, but once the final out was recorded, they remained winless against the Rays this season.
Tampa jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first, courtesy of a series of ground balls. The inning started with a single by Brandon Lowe and a walk to Yandy Diaz. Then Lopez got a sacrifice fly out and a strikeout to come within one out of escaping the jam.
But Joey Wendle hit a slow roller up the third base line that just eluded the grasp of Maikel Franco and sent Lowe across home plate. Then a swinging bunt to third off the bat of Manuel Margot — which Franco failed to bare-hand — allowed Diaz to score. Kevin Kiermaier followed with an RBI infield single deep in the hole at short, which scored the Rays' third and final run of the inning.
Rays’ starter Rich Hill breezed through his first three innings, facing the minimum nine batters in that span. Helped by a double play in the first, Hill then retired the side in order in the second and third.
After the damage inflicted by the Rays in the first, Lopez bounced back to put down the next eight batters in a row, which included three strikeouts. But trouble reared its ugly head again in the fourth.
Cedric Mullins entered the game with a .299/.365/.455 batting line against left-handers this season, and he delivered against Hill in the fourth with a single to right for the Orioles’ first hit of the game. But Mullins was erased from the basepaths when the next batter, Mancini, grounded into a double-play.
There was an odd exchange in the bottom of the fourth when Jorge Lopez plunked Brett Phillips, who yelled and gestured to the mound. The home plate umpire ran out to de-escalate, but Phillips was smiling and laughing, the exchange explained perhaps by the two being former teammates with the Brewers. That put runners on first and second for the Rays.
With two outs in the inning, Ryan Mountcastle misplayed a fly ball to left field that landed on the synthetic turf in front of him and bounced over his head. Two runs scored, lengthening the Rays’ lead to five.
The Birds made some noise in the top of the fifth, finally, when they loaded the bases against Hill with a single sandwiched by two walks. Even better, Mountcastle earned one of those walks. Then Austin Wynns cranked a grand slam home run to the seats in left, bringing the O’s roaring back to within one run.
Mullins drove Hill from the game with a broken-bat infield single off the left-hander’s leg. It was the second batted ball to strike Hill’s lower body in the game, with the other being a ground ball out off the bat of Austin Hays in the second.
With Hill out of the game, Mullins stole second on the first pitch from side-arm reliever Ryan Thompson to get into scoring position for RBI-machine Trey Mancini. But a fly ball to right ended the inning.
A couple of singles put runners on the corners for Tampa in the fifth, and manager Brandon Hyde chose to remove Lopez with two outs in favor of Tanner Scott. The left-on-left matchup paid off for the O’s, as Scott struck out Kevin Kiermaier to end the Rays’ threat. Scott had a strong outing, pitching a scoreless frame that included three strikeouts and one walk.
Despite a walk and an error by Freddy Galvis on a popup in short left field, Hunter Harvey got out of the seventh inning unscathed. Without recording any strikeouts, the O’s right-hander got through 1.1 scoreless innings. Since making his season debut recently, Harvey has a 2.08 ERA in 4.1 innings pitched.
The Orioles bullpen continued to make things interesting in the bottom of the eighth when Travis Lakins Sr. allowed a hit and a walk before exiting with two outs in the inning. Dillon Tate entered and registered the final out on a line drive to Hays in right.
In a last ditch effort against Rays’ closer Diego Castillo in the ninth, Galvis laced a two-out single into left-center field. Then Franco worked the count full before lunging at ball four to hit a weak grounder that ended the game.
After today’s loss, the Orioles are 0-5 this year against the Rays. They head into tomorrow’s series finale facing the possibility of a sweep to their AL East counterparts.