clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Orioles take control of AL East with extra inning 5-4 win over Rays

It took 11 innings and required three separate comebacks, but the Orioles the job done to secure a series split and put themselves in the driver’s seat for the AL East crown.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Baltimore Orioles are playoff bound and in control of the AL East. They clinched the honor with an extra innings 5-4 victory over the second-place Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards.

Here’s how it happened:

The Rays were unable to score at all on Saturday, but it took them just two batters to get on the board in this one. Brandon Lowe stroked a curveball into the right-center bleachers to take an early 1-0 lead for the visitors.

But that’s all O’s starter Dean Kremer would allow. He retired the next 10 batters he faced, stayed on for scoreless fourth and fifth innings, and then exited after issuing a lead-off walk in the sixth inning.

It was an impressive showing for Kremer. He bounced back from a poor start last week against the Cardinals, and came up big in a spot when the Orioles most needed him. His velocity was up ever so slightly, and he was getting whiffs on everything. Although used sparingly, Kremer’s changeup was his most effective offering. He threw it six times, drew four swings, and all of them were whiffs.

Zack Littell, Tampa’s starter on this day, matched him every step of the way, although he was under a bit more stress for much of the afternoon. The Orioles had runners in scoring position in the first and third inning, but were unable to cash in against Littell until the fourth.

In the fourth it was Ryan O’Hearn that doubled with one out in the fourth, and then trotted home on an Austin Hays single into left to tie things at one run apiece.

Danny Coulombe came on in the sixth after Kremer opened the inning with a walk. The southpaw induced a double play and then recorded a pop out to keep the score where it was. Coulombe stayed on to begin the seventh inning and sat down Josh Lowe to complete his day, a tremendous performance from the lefty.

Then it was Jorge López’s turn to pitch. It started off well. He got the final two outs in the seventh inning, looking absolutely filthy in the process. He returned for the eighth, and also got the lead-off hitter in that inning. But then things fell apart a bit. In the span of three pitches he allowed a pair of home runs, first to Tristan Gray and then to Christian Bethancourt, the eighth and ninth hitters in the Tampa lineup. Disaster.

Those homers felt like a 1-2 punch to the gut, but these Orioles don’t go down so easy. Adley Rutschman clawed one of the runs back in the O’s half of the eighth. Intermingled with a trio of strikeouts from his teammates, Rutschman smacked a 101-mph fastball into the stands in centerfield to make it just a one-run deficit.

Some heads-up defense in the top of the ninth kept the game right there. With one out and runners on the corners, Ryan O’Hearn charged a Jonathan Aranda grounder and threw home to try and nab Josh Lower barreling home from third. The umpire initially ruled the runner safe, but after a challenge the ruling was rightly overturned and the score remained 3-2.

That would prove to be crucial as the Orioles were able to knot the score once again in the bottom of the inning. Down to their final strike with a runner at first base, Adam Frazier poked a fastball down the third base line to score Jorge Mateo—who had pinch run for Austin Hays—all the way from first base. It was a whole new ball game!

Onto to extras, where Brandon Hyde turned to Yennier Cano. The O’s closer pitched well, getting three groundouts. But the first two were pounded in the ground near home plate and took absurdly high bounces. That allowed the Orioles to record an out each time, but it also allowed the Manfred runner to advance from second to third and then again all the way home to give the Rays a 4-3 lead.

In the Orioles half of the 10th, things did not start well. Pinch hitter Jordan Westburg struck out, and then Gunnar Henderson flew out, keeping the O’s Manfred runner (in this case Aaron Hicks) stuck at second base. But the Rays still had to deal with Rutschman. They failed. The O’s backstop was able to fist an inside fastball just beyond the reach of the infielder to get us square one more time.

D.L. Hall was next up out of the bullpen, and the hard-throwing lefty took care of the business. A pop out from Brandon Lowe, a ground out of Randy Arozarena (featuring a terrific defensive play from Henderson), and then another groundout from Josh Lowe got the O’s out of the inning without damage done. The Orioles Magic was brewing.

The bottom of the 11th started with a surprise. Ryan O’Hearn laid down a sacrifice bunt, a first in his big league career. It got the job done as Rutschman, who had started the inning at second, advanced to third. That set the stage for Cedric Mullins, who did all he needed to and lifted a long fly ball to center field, plenty of distance for Rutschman to mosey on home and clinch the win for the Orioles.

Due to the outcome of the Guradians-Rangers game that finished earlier, the Orioles (as well as the Rays) had already clinched a spot in the postseason by the time this game had concluded. But it sure feels a lot better to get that done in the process of winning a series finale.

Better yet, the Orioles are back to leading the AL East by two games, the exact same spot they were in when this set started. But now, that standing feels far more secure. The O’s have the head-to-head tiebreaker and no more games on the docket against these Rays. They are entirely in the driver’s seat of their playoff seeding.

While the Orioles’ place in the postseason had been nearly guaranteed for weeks now, it’s awesome to say they have officially clinched. It’s the organization’s first time back in the postseason since 2016, and it has been a long road back. The fan base has dealt with a lot of bad baseball, and the organization has (sometimes fairly) been dragged through the mud these last few years. Clinching a playoff berth is validation that much of that hard work was worth it.

Next up is a series in Houston against the defending champion Astros, another measuring stick for where these guys standing in the AL pecking order. John Means (0-1, 5.40 ERA) is on the bump against Justin Verlander (11-8, 3.39 ERA) in game one. First pitch is 8:10.


Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 17, 2023?

  • 4%
    Dean Kremer (ND, five innings, one run)
    (68 votes)
  • 4%
    DL Hall (kept the Manfred runner from scoring)
    (69 votes)
  • 83%
    Adley Rutschman (3-for-5, HR, two runs, two RBI)
    (1309 votes)
  • 4%
    Ryan O’Hearn (smart defense, sac bunt)
    (76 votes)
  • 3%
    Cedric Mullins (game-winning RBI)
    (55 votes)
1577 votes total Vote Now