Bats go cold as Orioles fall back into tie atop AL East with 3-0 loss to Rays

22 July 2023

No team over the past two weeks has been hotter than the Orioles. None had been colder than the Tampa Bay Rays.

They swapped places Friday night.

In the Orioles’ first game in sole possession of first place in the American League East this season, the Rays played like they had before their dismal July, silencing Baltimore’s bats en route to a 3-0 victory.

The Orioles were stymied by starting pitcher Zach Eflin and Tampa Bay’s bullpen, tallying just two hits, striking out 14 times and failing to score a run for the seventh time this season.

“Just wasn’t our night offensively,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

Baltimore starter Kyle Bradish continued his recent stretch of excellence, pitching six innings of two-run ball. Over his past seven starts, the right-hander has a 1.62 ERA. The last time he allowed more than two runs in a start was June 8. It’s been two months since he’s given up more than three.

Designated hitter Harold Ramirez hit an RBI single to put the Rays up 1-0 and end Bradish’s scoreless innings streak at 16 1/3, and third baseman Isaac Paredes clobbered a solo home run off Bradish in the sixth.

“I think it’s been a good little stretch,” Bradish said of his recent success. “Obviously, would’ve liked a different outcome today. That home run kind of irritated me, just can’t really happen right there in the sixth inning when the guy on the other side was kind of dealing like he was.”

In the seventh, catcher Jose Siri hit his 20th long ball of the season off reliever Shintaro Fujinami, who made his Orioles debut after joining the team Wednesday via a trade from the Oakland Athletics.

After Thursday’s extra-innings win, the Orioles gained sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since Aug. 12, 2016. At 59-38, they’re now tied with the Rays, who improved to 61-40.

The Orioles reached base in just four innings, advancing a runner into scoring position in one of them. Ryan Mountcastle doubled with one out in the second, but the Orioles went 0-for-2 in their only opportunities with runners in scoring position.

Eflin, the former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, struck out eight in seven shutout innings to lower his ERA to 3.36 as a member of the Rays’ dominant rotation. Only three of the Orioles’ 15 batted balls off the right-hander had exit velocities over 100 mph.

“He was definitely sharp tonight, using both sides of the plate,” Hyde said. “They were getting balls down for strikes. He didn’t leave a whole lot of balls in the middle part of the plate for us. We just had a tough time getting anything going against him.”

Relievers Colin Poche and Pete Fairbanks followed with scoreless innings to maintain the shutout, both striking out the side. The Orioles have struck out more than the 14 times they did Friday just five times this season.

“No,” Hyde said when asked if he was concerned with the strikeouts. “We’re taking a shot with Poche there, who’s a strikeout guy, and he punched the side out. And Fairbanks has got a ton of punchouts also, he’s got great stuff.”

This story will be updated.

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