ST. PETERSBURG, Florida—The Orioles scattered for the four-day All-Star break after Sunday’s 7-5 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays before an announced crowd of 13,813 at Tropicana Field.
And even though they lost two of three to the Rays (51-41) after winning 10 in a row, the Orioles enter the All-Star break with a .500 record (46-46) for the first time since 2016.
“It just means we’ve taken a big step forward, where we are and where we’ve come the last few years and how much our players have gotten better,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game. “If you throw out the first 20 games, our guys have reason to believe that we can win every series.”
Oriole starter Jordan Lyles hit Tampa Bay first baseman Harold Ramirez, his second batter. with a pitch that fractured his right thumb. The Rays said Ramirez will be reevaluated in two weeks. Randy Arozarena followed with his 12th home run, and his 13th in 30 games against the Orioles.
The Rays increased their lead to 3-0 in the second when Lyles walked Brett Phillips and Josh Lowe doubled with two outs.
Lyles (6-8) was knocked out in the third. Arozarena led off with a single and was thrown out when he tried to score on Brandon Lowe’s double. With two outs, Taylor Walls walked, and Phillips, who was 1-for-34, homered — his fifth of the season and first since May 17th.
Tampa Bay led, 6-0, and Lyles’ 2 2/3 innings was his shortest start since April 26th, 2021. He ends the first half with a 4.76 ERA.
“For the most part, we were decent,” Lyles said. “I have a job to do here, and that’s to do what I did not do today, and that’s help the guys out in the bullpen, and the guys starting before and after me.
“Usually I can help the guys in the bullpen and let them rely on me, but today I didn’t have my stuff, and I had to rely on them. I’m going to chalk it up to one of those days. Last start [before] the break, take some days off, get some rest and personally, I felt like we’ve been throwing it pretty well the last handful of starts. Chalk this up to a bad one and come back after the break and get on another good streak.”
Lyles was in trouble from the start on Sunday.
“He just didn’t have his normal command today,” Hyde said. “He’s been unbelievable. For me, this is a small blip, and what he’s done for us, which is pitch every fifth day and gives us a chance almost every time out. He stays out there as long as possible.
“Today wasn’t his best day, but he’s been great for us the first half.”
Tampa Bay starter Corey Kluber (6-5) allowed two hits in the first three innings, but the Orioles scored two runs in the fourth when Anthony Santander was hit by a pitch, and Ryan Mountcastle, Adley Rutschman, Ramón Urías and Rougned Odor each singled.
Rutschman and Urías each drove home a run, and Odor’s hit loaded the bases. Jorge Mateo flied to short right, and Cedric Mullins popped to third to end the inning.
Bryan Baker relieved Lyles and struck out the five batters he faced.
Odor hit a two-run home run, his 10th, in the sixth to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 6-4.
Francisco Mejia led off the sixth with his sixth home run against Keegan Akin to make it 7-4.
Austin Hays homered against Pete Fairbanks to lead off the eighth. Rutschman followed with a double, but Urías struck out, Odor flied to center and Mateo struck out.
Jason Adam worked a scoreless ninth for his fourth save.
“I think it was a very happy first half all around,” Santander said through a translator after the game. “I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be over .500, so it’s a really good first half.”
“Going into this year, that was our number one goal to have our players continue to improve, but also show Orioles fans that we are improving, and that we’re putting a good product on the field, and we’re an exciting team to watch,” Hyde said. “Our guys are getting better, and I feel like we’ve done that so far, and I just want that to continue in the second half.”
Notes: Oriole pitchers equaled a season high with 14 strikeouts. … The Orioles will open the second half with a three-game series against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards on Friday night. Hyde hasn’t named his pitchers for the series.
Bautista injury update: Félix Bautista was cleared to return, one day after the reliever injured his right hand in a freak accident before Saturday’s game.
“I started to get loose and warm up. I have this routine where I warm up with some bands,” Bautista said through Orioles translator Brandon Quinones.
“It has a hook, and I tied it on the fence. I started doing my routine, doing some exercises. The hook came off and the band came off and it hit me on my right hand.”
Minor league update: Akron beat Double-A Bowie, 9-0, holding the Baysox to just four hits. Reliever Justin Armbruester allowed six runs, three unearned, on five hits in 2 2/3 innings.
High-A Aberdeen was held to just two hits in its 9-0 loss to Jersey Shore.
Shortstop Frederick Bencosme continued his hot hitting with two RBIs as Single-A Delmarva beat Carolina, 10-4. Bencosme is hitting .368 in 32 games.
Leftfielder Trendon Craig also drove in two runs. Second baseman Luis Valdez and first baseman Roberto Martinez each had three hits.
The minor leagues also will be off during the All-Star break.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB