It was another game in which the Orioles did seemingly everything they needed to beat the Tampa Bay Rays. And another game in which the Rays reminded the O’s and their fans that, you know what, it doesn’t really matter.
A team that has spent all season showcasing its ability to come from behind was at it again Saturday, as the Rays scored two runs in the seventh and then two in the eighth to erase a three-run deficit and beat the Orioles 4-3.
Baltimore has now lost 11 straight to Tampa Bay and 17 of 18 games, and this looked just like how a few of them have looked: the two teams are close early, the Orioles take a lead midway through, and the bullpen just needs to do its job to finish off the win.
And that third step just never happens. There was the 9-6 loss on Aug. 8, in which the Orioles went into the seventh up three runs. And the 10-6 loss on Aug. 6, when Baltimore saw a 5-2 sixth-inning lead vanish. And the 5-4 loss on July 21, when the O’s led 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth.
Lucy pulled the football away again Saturday. John Means had pitched so well, and the Orioles had gotten some big hits and made some big plays in the field, and they had a 3-0 lead going into the seventh.
Then Tampa Bay woke up. Wander Franco lined out on a nice diving play at short by Ramon Urias, but Yandy Diaz grounded a single up the middle and Brandon Lowe ripped a line drive down the right field line that just stayed fair for a double, putting runners at the corners.
Manager Brandon Hyde came out to get Means, and you could tell Means was disappointed not to be finishing the game, or at least escaping the jam himself. The cameras seemed to catch him saying a word that isn’t permitted on a family-friendly site like Camden Chat. Could you blame him? He’s seen this movie before.
He got to watch it unfold again as Austin Meadows grounded to second against Dillon Tate, scoring Diaz, and Joey Wendle smoked a double to left over Austin Hays’s head to bring in Lowe and make it 3-2.
The Wheel of Relievers Who Get To Lose To The Rays landed on Cole Sulser for the eighth. Sulser immediately walked Kevin Kiermaier to bring up Randy Arozarena, who has been this year what Mookie Betts was in 2016, Gleyber Torres was in 2019 and Randal Grichuk was in 2020: An absolute destroyer of all things Orange, Black and Smiling Bird. Arozarena began the night batting .469 against the O’s with a 1.480 OPS and seven home runs and 16 RBI in 11 games. If he played against only Baltimore, Arozarena at that rate would finish with 103 home runs and 235 RBI over 162 games. Those would be single-season records, if you were curious.
Saturday was not going to be the day for that narrative to change. Arozarena drilled a shot to right field that just got over the top of the right field scoreboard and hit the railing, good for a two-run homer and the 4-3 lead - one that became a 4-3 win six Oriole outs later.
It was such a tough ending - again - for a game that - again - began with some real promise. Means was on, showing his form from the first half of the season and sailing through the first six innings, allowing three hits while striking out five and consistently keeping his pitches away from the barrels of the Rays’ big bats.
Meanwhile, the Oriole offense was stepping up to do its part. In the fifth, Pedro Severino tagged a double off the right field wall (the one Arozarena would clear three innings later), Kelvin Gutierrez drew a walk and Cedric Mullins was hit by a pitch. Ryan Mountcastle hit what off the bat looked like a grand slam, but it hung up just enough for Arozarena to make the catch falling back into the left field wall. Severino scored, and it was 1-0.
In the sixth, Hays laced a drive off the right-field wall (the thing was a target all night) that caromed past Manuel Margot, allowing him to make it to third. Urias walked, and Severino smacked a bullet to left that flew over Arozarena’s head for a double and a 2-0 lead. Jorge Mateo then got just enough of the bat on a pitch down and away for a bloop single to center, bringing in Urias for a 3-0 advantage.
Things were looking good. But then again, things have often looked good at points against the Rays.
How things have ended, however? That’s unfortunately been a different story altogether.