Alexander Wells got an unexpected start, and nearly got a win. However, reliever Tanner Scott allowed a two-out, two-strike single to Austin Meadows that scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 5-4 walkoff win against the Orioles on Wednesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
With a 4-3 lead in the ninth, Scott (3-4) allowed a leadoff single to Francisco Mejia and struck out Joey Wendle. Mike Zunino walked, and Randy Arozarena lifted a pop to short right field. First baseman Ryan Mountcastle and second baseman Pat Valaika chased it, collided, and the ball fell for a single to load the bases.
“I called it pretty late there,” Mountcastle said. “I didn’t know Pat was over there. Here at the Trop, you can’t really put your head down and run. You’ve got to stare at the ball the whole time so you don’t lose it. I think we were both doing that. It was sort of a tough play for both of us and, unfortunately, collided a little bit and let it fall. It’s a tough play, I think.”
Vidal Bruján struck out, and Meadows singled to center to score Mejia and pinch-runner Kevin Kiermaier for the win.
“Tanner’s been throwing the ball great,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That was my first time putting him in the ninth inning in that kind of situation. [Tyler Wells] was down today, so Tanner was going to close that game if it was a save situation. We were one strike away. Give Meadows credit for putting the ball in play with two strikes against a left-handed pitcher. That one hurts.”
Collin McHugh (3-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the win for Tampa Bay (57-39).
After winning two of three at Kansas City, the Orioles (31-64) lost two of three in Tampa Bay.
“We’re putting guys in spots they really haven’t been in,” Hyde said. “We don’t have high-end, back-of-the-bullpen guys.”
Before the game, the Orioles announced that scheduled starter Keegan Akin had been placed on the Covid-19 injured list — along with rightfielder Anthony Santander. That forced the Orioles to change their plans.
Wells found out about the start in a phone call at 11:30 on Tuesday night from pitching coach Chris Holt. He called his family back in Australia, who set their alarms for 2 a.m. Thursday morning to watch the game.
“I tried to get some sleep last night,” Wells said. “I’m glad it was a day game because I didn’t have much time to think about anything and just get out there and get going.”
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first. Cedric Mullins led off with a double and scored on a double by Austin Hays.
Arozarena hit Wells’ second pitch for his 12th home run leading off the bottom of the first to tie it. Wendle had an RBI triple in the second gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
Valaika homered against Michael Wacha in the third. It was his second home run and his first since May 5th when he homered during John Means’ no-hitter.
Mountcastle homered in the fourth, his first since June 28 and his 15th of the season to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
Arozarena hit his 13th homer in the bottom of the fifth to tie it, 3-3. Arozarena has seven homers, 17 RBIs and is 17-for-37 (.459) against the Orioles in eight games this season.
Mountcastle’s RBI single against Matt Wisler scored Trey Mancini in the top of the sixth to put the Orioles back on top, 4-3.
Wells was removed after he struck out Brandon Lowe and retired Ji-Man Choi on a liner to left for the first two outs in the sixth.
“He really competed,” Hyde said. “Doesn’t have the fastball that he’s going to blow by people or the plus-plus stuff. He does compete with what he has and did a nice job commanding the baseball after the second inning.”
Wells allowed three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two.
“Third inning onwards, I felt a lot better,” Wells said. “Instead of trying to nibble around the plate, I went out there and attacked the zone, like I normally do. Knowing that my stuff can play here gives me confidence going into my next appearance.”
Cole Sulser struck out Mejia to end the sixth. He allowed a one-out triple to Brett Phillips in the seventh and was replaced by Dillon Tate, who struck out Arozarena and retired Bruján on a grounder to third.
Notes: After a day off on Thursday, the Orioles play the Washington Nationals at home his weekend. Jorge López (2-12, 6.04 ERA) will start on Friday night. Spenser Watkins (2-0, 1.65) will start on Saturday, with the game scheduled at 6:35 p.m. The Orioles haven’t named their starter for Sunday. The first 15,000 fans 15 and over will receive an Orioles vintage T-shirt on Friday, and a Jim Palmer bobblehead will be handed out to the first 20,000 fans 16 and over on Saturday. … Konner Wade (2-1) allowed a run on four hits in six innings as Triple-A Norfolk beat Gwinnett, 2-1, in the first game of a doubleheader. Designated hitter J.C. Escarra hit his third home run.