This one got weird.
Need evidence? How about the fact that the Orioles’ starter went only three batters? Or that the Tampa Bay Rays dropped and booted balls to give Baltimore life in its attempt to escape an early deficit? How about a ninth-inning rally underneath a blackening sky and swirling winds, while Orioles broadcaster Kevin Brown made “Wizard of Oz” allusions? How about a weather delay that stopped this mad affair the moment the Orioles completed their comeback?
Yes, this one was strange.
And in the end, it ended up being a memorable afternoon, as the Orioles staged a ninth-inning rally before taking down the Rays 7-6 in the finale of the teams’ three-game weekend set Sunday afternoon.
The Orioles never got to play this game on their terms, as starter Spenser Watkins was lifted after being hit by a line drive three batters into the game, forcing Baltimore to obtain every out of the game from their bullpen. The job got even tougher when Tampa Bay came away with four runs in the inning, forcing the Orioles to stage their shorthanded fight from a hole.
The Orioles fought back, however, narrowing the gap to two runs at 6-4 going into the ninth inning. Ryan Mountcastle led off with a single on a sinking liner when Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier slid but couldn’t make the catch. The Rays got Adley Rutschman to pop up and then, after a Ramon Urias walk, Rougned Odor to do the same, but a balk put both pinch-runner Ryan McKenna and Urias in scoring position, and manager Brandon Hyde called on Austin Hays to pinch hit.
The decision worked perfectly, as Hays drilled a single to left field to score both McKenna and pinch-runner Chris Owings, bringing the Orioles even at 6-6 for the first time all game. No sooner had Hays finished getting a fist-bump for his tying single than the umpires called for the tarp, as the entire ninth inning took place under an increasingly ominous sky that brought wind gusts and even lightning to the area.
The fun times continued after the resumption. In the 11th inning, ghost runner Rutschman scored the winner when Odor chopped to first and Ji-Man Choi misplayed the ball for an error - continuing an afternoon-long theme for Tampa Bay.
The game was odd from the start. Watkins gave up back-to-back hits to Kevin Kiermaier and Randy Arozarena to start the game, and the game’s third batter, Ji-Man Choi, ripped a line drive up the middle that hit off Watkins’s right arm and went for an infield single, scoring Kiermaier to make it 1-0.
More importantly, however, Watkins had to leave due to the injury, forcing the Orioles to get every one of the game’s outs via the bullpen. Joey Krehbiel was first up, and though he got a flyout from Harold Ramirez and a groundout from Vidal Brujan that put him on the verge of slipping out of the jam unscathed, he followed that up by hanging a cutter that Isaac Paredes hooked into the left field seats for a 4-0 lead.
That was the Rays’ loudest outburst of the game, however, and the fleet of Orioles relievers held up for the most part. Krehbiel went three innings and was charged with one run. Bryan Baker went two innings and allowed only a Kiermaier RBI single in the fourth. Dillon Tate went two innings and allowed just an unearned run in the seventh. Felix Bautista and Jorge Lopez kept the Rays off the board in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. All five were crucial in keeping the Orioles within range.
And from the start, the Oriole hitters were up for the challenge of rallying back. They loaded the bases in the first, but Taylor Walls made a brilliant charging, barehanded play on Urias’s slow roller to end the threat. They put a runner on third when Odor doubled and went to third on a passed ball, but again Baltimore found itself lacking the big hit.
In the third, however, the O’s broke through. Anthony Santander hit a one-out single and Mountcastle drew a walk. Rutschman hit a weak fly ball to left that Arozarena kept from being a hit with a diving catch, but Urias picked him up with a single to left, scoring Santander, and Odor smacked his second double of the game to score Mountcastle and cut the deficit in half.
After the Rays pushed the lead back to three with Kiermaier’s single in the fourth, Baltimore got the run back in the fifth when Mountcastle drilled a homer just over a leaping Kiermaier’s glove in center, 398 feet from home plate. The momentum was short-lived, as Arozarena knocked in Kiermaier (those two were everywhere) with a single off of Tate to make it 6-3 in the seventh.
But then weirdness struck again. With Urias on first and two outs, Odor hit a seemingly inning-ending ground ball to Brujan in the shift, but the Rays second baseman booted it. Tampa Bay appeared to be escaping again when Robinson Chirinos lined harmlessly to left, but Arozarena dropped the ball for another error, allowing Urias to score, make it 6-4 and set the stage for perhaps the strangest inning of the day.
Given how they rallied from a dismal start, the Orioles continued to show a resilience and toughness that has been on display at various points throughout the season. They struggle to find the big hit, and they did today, but the Orioles don’t appear to be a bunch that counts itself out. With help already on both the roster and the horizon, this is a trait that can only serve them well as the wave of talent continues to make its way to Baltimore.
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