The unofficial first half of the season came to a close on Sunday afternoon as the Orioles lost 7-5 to the Rays after digging themselves an early six-run hole on the road at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Jordan Lyles had himself a bad day. MASN color commentator Jim Palmer noted that Lyles seemed to lack his normal control, often leaving pitches over the heart of the plate, and the Tampa lineup was all over it with an average exit velocity against of 96.5 mph. That’s not good!
The veteran righty’s line tells the whole story. Over 2.2 innings, Lyles allowed six runs on six hits, two walks, and five strikeouts on 70 pitches. That included two painful home runs.
The first dong came in the first inning, when Oriole-killer Randy Arozarena launched his 12th home run of the season to deep center, just beyond the reach of a leaping Cedric Mullins. Harold Ramírez, who had reached on a hit by pitch, also scored on the play.
Support for Raking with Randy is provided by... actually Randy's got it covered pic.twitter.com/DiIiJk2uRM— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 17, 2022
Another run was scored in the second inning. After walking to open the inning, Brett Phillips came around to score on a Josh Lowe two-bagger, extending the lead to 3-0.
It was Phillips again in the third inning when he delivered the knockout blow. With two runners on base (Brandon Lowe double, Taylor Walls walk), Phillips deposited a long fly ball into the right field bleachers for a three-run homer to double the home team’s advantage, 6-0.
He must have known he had the power to give people 50% off pizza pic.twitter.com/BpdbGcLyMJ— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 17, 2022
That was the day for Lyles. It was not the sort of outing that we have become accustomed to for the “innings eater.” Even on his bad days, Lyles tends to get through five innings. But it just was not working for him in this one. His 107.2 innings on the season lead the Orioles by a substantial margin. Perhaps he needs this all-star break more than any one else on the staff.
But as we know, the 2022 Orioles do “have that dog in ‘em,” so of course they fought back.
The O’s got two runs back in the fourth inning. Anthony Santander led off with a hit by pitch. He moved to second on a Ryan Mountcastle single, and then came on home thanks to an Adley Rutschman single to left-center. Moments later, Mountcastle crossed the plate as well on a base knock from Ramon Urías.
Two more runs were scored in the sixth inning. This time it came courtesy of the long ball as Rougned Odor launched a homer to right field, scoring Austin Hays (hit by pitch) in the process. That made it just a two-run deficit at 6-4.
With Keegan Akin pitching in the bottom of the frame, Francisco Mejía nudged the Rays back ahead by three with a lead-off round-tripper for their seventh run of the day.
Barely back from break, but Francisco wasn't waiting around pic.twitter.com/Li6SwlmiJh— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 17, 2022
That would prove to be more than enough. Austin Hays did connect for his 12th home run of the season in the top of the eighth inning, and it was a glorious bomb, but the two teams would get no closer. The O’s went down in order against Jason Adam to close out the 7-5 loss.
The home run chain is alive and well‼️ pic.twitter.com/gCwBTK7Cyo— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 17, 2022
The difference was in the starting pitching. Lyles could not duplicate his impressive performance from his last trip to the mound while Rays starter Corey Kluber was serviceable enough (six innings, four runs, eight hits, one walk, three strikeouts.
The bullpen had themselves a nice day, though. Bryan Baker, in particular, was impressive. He tossed 1.2 perfect innings, striking out all five batters he faced. Could he be moving in on the “bulk inning” turf of Akin. The southpaw also tossed 1.2 innings, but allowed three hits, including the homer. Dillon Tate and Joey Krehbiel combined for two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth.
Hays, Rutschman, and Odor all had multi-hit games. Meanwhile it was a tough conclusion to the first half for the top two hitters in the lineup, Mullins and Trey Mancini. They combined to go 0-for-8 with five runners left on base. Mancini struck out three times.
But it was one bad day. This team is at .500 after playing 92 games this season. That is one heck of an achievement, and there could be even brighter days ahead with promotions of Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, and others still possible before the end of the year.
For now, though, our attention will shift to Los Angeles. First up is the MLB Draft, where the Orioles have both the number one overall pick and the highest bonus pool allotment. That gets going at 7 p.m. ET tonight on MLB Network, but you can stick at Camden Chat to talk about the goings on with like-minded folks.
And then it’s the All-Star festivities. We will have to wait and see if/when the O’s representative Jorge López gets into the Midsummer Classic, but it is usually a worthy spectacle regardless of Orioles inclusion.
The next Orioles game is on Friday, when they start a three-game set against the Yankees at Camden Yards. That could bring with it a sizable crowd as the Baltimore faithful look to celebrate a tremendous first half, and the expected invasion of Yankee fans may find it slightly harder to get a ticket than usual.