Almost everything went Baltimore’s way in the first four innings. The Orioles scored six runs and Kyle Bradish struck out four of the first six batters he faced. The Birds climbed to a seven-run advantage, but an evolving middle-relief crisis sent Baltimore spiraling toward an epic collapse.
The Rays trimmed the seven-run lead to only one, but Baltimore never relinquished the lead. Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista arrived in time to save the day, and the Orioles took the first of two games in Tampa Bay with an 8-6 victory.
The Orioles jumped out to a four-run lead before the Rays ever touched a bat. Gunnar Henderson ripped the very first pitch for a double, advanced on a ground ball by Adley Rutschman, and scored on a single by Anthony Santander.
Austin Hays followed Santander with a single, and then Baltimore’s most recent surprise performer struck again. Aaron Hicks hooked a ball over the right-field fence for a three-run homer. Adam Frazier followed with a walk, but Ramón Urías tapped a ball to short for the final out.
Baltimore continued to build its lead with some two-out lightening in the second. Adley Rutschman worked the count full before earning a free pass, and Santander launched a ball 405 feet to make it 6-0.
The Birds stayed quiet until Ryan O’Hearn launched a solo shot in the fifth that extended the lead to seven. Then things began to fall apart.
Bradish allowed a pair in the fifth and a high pitch count ruled out a return in the sixth. He finished with 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts over the five frames.
Bryan Baker surrendered a hard line drive to right field that Santander failed to catch. The ball bounced off a leaping Santander’s glove and Ramirez reached with a leadoff double. Paredes followed with a single that scored Harold Ramirez and trimmed the lead to four.
Bradish had kept the Rays off the board for the first four innings. He used a slider-first approach to rack up the strikeouts early and often. The righty struck out Yandy Diaz and Luke Raley in the first, and sent down Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe swinging in the second.
Bradish struggled to locate his fastball and briefly lost all command in the bottom of the third. He walked Isaac Paredes and Taylor Walls before Francisco Mejia worked the count full. Bradish recovered with a 3-2 slider that froze Mejia for the first out.
The 26-year-old struck out Diaz and Wander Franco with sliders to end the inning. Bradish allowed his first hit to start the fourth inning but retired the next three hitters to keep his shutout intact.
Bradish plunked Paredes to start the fifth, and Mejia rocketed a double off the right field wall to plate Tampa’s first run. Bradish nearly minimized the damage, but a sliding Jorge Mateo failed to secure an awkward pop up down the left field line. The bloop by Franco scored Tampa’s second run and reduced the lead to five. Baker walked Walls, and Brandon Hyde summoned Mike Baumann.
Baumann picked up the second out with a foul out by Mejia, but Diaz punched a single to right field that trimmed the lead to three. Baumann walked Franco to load the bases, and Hyde turned to Danny Coulombe.
The Rays sent pinch-hitter Manuel Margot to face Coulombe and he delivered. Margot shot a ball into left field that scored two without a throw. Suddenly, a seven-run advantage melted into a narrow one-run lead.
Coulombe finally recorded the final out and picked up two more in the seventh. Yennier Cano completed the seventh inning and recorded a pair of outs in the eighth before handing it off to the birthday boy. Félix Bautista needed only one pitch to get the first of his four-out save.
Hays smoked a leadoff double for this third hit in the eighth. Hicks came up clutch again and plated a gigantic insurance run with a single to center. The Orioles carried an 8-6 lead into the ninth inning.
The top of the order failed to score in the top of the ninth. Bautista pegged Arozarena to bring the tying run to the plate for the duration of the frame. The Mountain recovered by striking out Ramirez, generating a shallow fly out by Lowe and punching out Paredes to end the game.
Bradish and the offence set the tone early, but the game should be remembered for the poise shown by Cano and Bautista. Hicks stole a touch of momentum with his eighth inning RBI, and the Orioles handed Tampa Bay its first three-run losing streak of the season.
Tyler Wells will take the ball tomorrow afternoon with the Birds looking for a two-game sweep. Cano and Bautista could still be available with another day off looming, but a deep start from the WHIP leader would certainly go a long way for the Orioles.
Who was the most Birdland player on Tuesday June 20?
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Aaron Hicks (3-4, 2 R, 3-run HR, 4 RBI)
Austin Hays (3-4, 2 R)
Kyle Bradish (5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 8 K)
Félix Bautista (four-out save, 2 K)