Orioles take sole possession of first place in AL East with 4-3 win over Rays in extra innings

21 July 2023

In games against American League East rivals, the little things matter more. When those games go to extra innings, the little things often make the difference.

Thursday’s divisional matchup between the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays — the two best teams in the American League — naturally went into extras. Two Orioles, one veteran and one rookie, came through with sacrifices in the 10th to give Baltimore a 4-3 lead that closer Félix Bautista held in the bottom half.

Second baseman Adam Frazier, an eight-year veteran, laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance automatic runner Aaron Hicks to third, and rookie Colton Cowser, playing in his 11th career game, drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left field. Bautista, who pitched a scoreless ninth to send the game to extras, hit the first batter of the 10th but then struck Randy Arozarena and got Brandon Lowe to ground into a game-ending double play.

The win puts Baltimore (59-37) in sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since Aug. 12, 2016. They are one game ahead of Tampa Bay (60-40).

Rays starter Tyler Glasnow was perfect through three innings at Tropicana Field — a common sight over the years, as the 6-foot-8 right-hander has historically dominated the Orioles. Across six starts against the rebuild-era Orioles, Glasnow was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA and a 36.4% strikeout rate. Earlier this season, though, the Orioles tagged him for six runs in 4 1/3 innings en route to a victory, and their bats rediscovered that success in a fourth inning that was as weird as it was fruitful for Baltimore’s offense.

Leadoff hitter Gunnar Henderson began the frame with a ground ball hit to left field. The ball tipped off third baseman Taylor Walls’ glove, allowing Henderson to advance to second. The 22-year-old rookie then took advantage of the Rays’ lollygagging — left fielder Arozarena’s nonchalant throw and Walls’ failure to cover the bag — to take third for a triple.

Tampa Bay then brought the infield in despite having a 1-0 lead with no outs, and Adley Rutschman hit a Baltimore chop over second baseman Lowe’s head to score Henderson. Anthony Santander then singled on a ground ball to where the shortstop would’ve been had the Rays not been shifting, and he and Rutschman later advanced on a wild pitch.

Rutschman scored on a sacrifice fly from Ryan O’Hearn, and Santander raced home from second on a ground ball single from Hicks. The ball reached catcher Francisco Mejía well before Santander reached home, but the hard slide from the 6-2, 230-pound first baseman knocked the ball loose. As Santander walked back to the bench, he waved his helmet to a large (and loud) contingent of Orioles fans behind the third base dugout.

Three of the Orioles’ hits in the inning were to the opposite field; all four were on the ground and got through because of the Rays’ infield alignment.

The Orioles managed just two more hits off Glasnow, who pitched three more scoreless innings to keep the Rays in the game. Baltimore entered the seventh with a 3-1 lead thanks to veteran starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, who kept Tampa Bay’s bats at bay. Through six innings, the 35-year-old allowed just one run with eight strikeouts — his third-highest total this season and second straight start striking out eight or more. The Rays’ lone run with Gibson on the mound came on an RBI single from Mejía in the second. Gibson retired 13 of the next 16 batters, including striking out the side in the fifth and inducing three ground ball outs in the sixth.

However, Gibson allowed singles to the first two batters of the seventh and was replaced by reliever Yennier Cano, who gave up both runs to the first batter he faced when Yandy Díaz roped a center-cut sinker 109.4 mph for a double to right-center field. Cano stranded Díaz at second to keep the score tied.

Around the horn

Manager Brandon Hyde said he isn’t sure what role right-hander Shintaro Fujinami, whom the Orioles acquired from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday evening, will serve in Baltimore’s bullpen but the 29-year-old will likely join the team in a “couple days.” “I’m not going to jump the gun on what role I’m going to use him with until I see him or talk to him and let him pitch a little bit,” Hyde said.
Cedric Mullins, who was placed on the injured list Wednesday with a right adductor groin strain, said Thursday that the pain he experienced Saturday began in his quad before moving up to his groin, the same injury that caused him to miss most of June. “It’s kind of a reinjury of the same exact spot,” the center fielder said. “Definitely want to take the time to treat it properly and make sure everything’s going to be fine.” Mullins said there’s “no way of knowing” how long he’ll be on the shelf. He said he’s able to do “everything but running,” which included taking batting practice on the field Thursday. The Orioles are 42-22 when Mullins starts and 16-15 when he does not.

This story will be updated.


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