Things started well enough for the Orioles at the Trop. Starter Matt Harvey looked strong for the first few innings and the O’s offense scratched a run across the board early. The Birds went into the fourth with a lead but left with a deficit and never came back.
The Rays took advantage of their opportunities tonight, proving once again why they’re one of the premier ballclubs in this league. Their opener/bulk reliever strategy was effective, as the Rays’ pitching staff held Baltimore to two runs. On the other side of the ball, Tampa’s offense was patient and chased Harvey from the game in the fifth.
The Birds went down quietly in the top of the first, with Collin McHugh retiring the Orioles in order. The Rays’ opener lasted two perfect innings — no hits, no runs, no walks, and one K.
The Orioles came into St. Petersburg desperately needing a stopper to end their 11-game losing streak, and Harvey has been a changed pitcher in the second half of the season. He came into the game with a 1.65 ERA in his last five starts. But he couldn’t deliver tonight against the AL East leaders.
A curveball got away from the O’s right-hander in the first and hit Brandon Lowe, giving Tampa their first baserunner of the game. But Harvey rebounded nicely, generating a couple of flyball outs before striking out Austin Meadows on three pitches.
Joey Wendle worked Harvey for seven pitches to open the second. But the Dark Knight won that battle, getting the Rays shortstop to swing through a sinker. Mike Brosseau worked the count full before grounding out, and Brett Phillips was Harvey’s third strikeout victim.
With Josh Fleming on the mound to begin the third, Jorge Mateo legged out a double on a failed sliding catch by Phillips in short right. Austin Wynns singled, then advanced to second after Richie Martin flew out and Phillips airmailed a throw to home plate. Then Cedric Mullins laid down a sacrifice bunt to third to score Mateo. 1-0, O’s.
But Baltimore’s lead evaporated in the fourth. The Rays strung together a walk, infield single, and a triple to pull ahead, 2-1. Harvey bounced back with a strikeout, and then nailed Meadows trying to score from third. Brosseau hit a weak groundball that Harvey pounced on and flipped to Wynns, who applied the tag at home on a sliding Meadows. After that, a flyout ended the frame.
Kevin Kiermeier opened the Rays’ half of the fifth with a solo home run to right. Two batters later, Lowe launched a solo shot to deep center for his 27th homer of the year. Harvey was removed with two outs and a runner on first. He was replaced by Paul Fry.
The lefty walked the first batter he saw and served up an RBI double to Wendle before getting the third out. 5-1, Rays. Harvey was charged with five runs on five hits and one walk. He did strike out six batters, all of which were the swinging variety.
The Rays struck again in the sixth, scoring three runs off of Fry. Phillips smashed an inside-the-park home run to start the inning, and later on, Lowe hit a two-run shot out of the park. It was the second baseman’s second home run of the game and his 28th of the year.
Cole Sulser relieved Fry and put an end to the sixth inning. But recently recalled Fernando Abad gave up a solo home run to Mike Brosseau in the seventh. It was Tampa’s fifth homer of the game.
After 4.1 consecutive scoreless innings, the Birds got their second run off of Josh Flemming in the eighth. Mullins singled with one out and wound up scoring all the way from first. After taking a couple of hard foul balls off his lower extremities, Trey Mancini knocked an RBI double down the left field line. Then Rays manager Kevin Cash summoned Louis Head from the bullpen after a two-out walk to Austin Hays. DJ Stewart struck out to end the frame. 9-2, Rays.
Coming on in relief of opener Collin McHugh, Flemming deftly handled the role of bulk reliever. He gave up six hits, two runs, and one walk in 5.2 innings with a pair of strikeouts.
Down to their last three outs, the Orioles did not go down in order. They got their first two runners on base in the ninth, via walk and an infield single. But then Wynns grounded into a double play, and Martin struck out to end the game.
The Orioles continue to get owned by the Rays in 2021, as they’ve now lost 12 of 13 games against Tampa. Look out, because there are three more games in this series at the Trop. At least the O’s have their ace pitching tomorrow. Maybe John Means can play stopper.