ST. PETERSBURG, Florida—The Tampa Bay Rays won their first 13 games of the season, and despite an excellent first 71 games, the Orioles have been chasing the Rays all season.
The Orioles came into their two-game series at Tropicana Field trailing Tampa Bay by five games in the American League East, and after nearly blowing a seven-run lead, held on for an 8-6 win before an announced crowd of 20,906 on Tuesday night.
Centerfielder Aaron Hicks drove in four runs. Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista recorded the final seven outs, and the Orioles (45-27) trail the Rays (51-25) by four.
The Orioles took a 7-0 lead, scoring four in the first, their biggest first inning of the season.
Designated hitter Gunnar Henderson led off with a double, and he scored on rightfielder Anthony Santander’s RBI single. Hicks hit a three-run home run, his third, against Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow.
Santander hit a two-run home run in the second, his 11th, his second in two games, and it was 6-0.
Glasnow (2-1) left with one out in the fifth, and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn hit Shawn Armstrong’s first pitch for his sixth home run and a 7-0 lead.
Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t expect an easy time.
“Not with the Rays,” he said. “It’s a really good club. It’s a great offense. No runs are enough.”
Oriole starter Kyle Bradish allowed a hit and walked two in the first four innings. He began the fifth by hitting Isaac Paredes. With one out, Francisco Mejia’s double scored Paredes and Wander Franco’s single scored Mejia.
“They’re the Number 1 team in baseball for a reason,” Bradish said. “With that team, you’ve got to step on their throats. I let them back in there in the fifth, but we were able to close that gap.”
Bradish (3-3) allowed two runs on four hits with eight strikeouts in five innings. It was his first win against an American League East opponent in 19 starts.
“It got mentioned to me after my last outing against Toronto,” Bradish said. “I don’t look too much into personal wins, just as long as the team wins, but it definitely feels good to get that first one against an AL East opponent.”
The sixth inning was a disaster for the bullpen. Hyde used Bryan Baker, Mike Baumann and Danny Coulombe, each getting an out, but the Rays scored four runs. The big hit was Manuel Margot’s two-run single against Coulombe that cut the lead to 7-6.
Adam Frazier ran well into left field to chase down Randy Arozarena’s pop to end the sixth, and he ranged far into the hole to field Taylor Walls’ grounder to end the seventh.
“He’s a really smart player on the field,” Hyde said. “He’s always talking on defense, always in the right spot. Loves to play, loves to win, and we’re fortunate to have him.”
The Orioles managed to add on in the eighth on Hays’ double and Hicks’ RBI single for an 8-6 lead.
In Hicks’ 12 previous games at Tropicana Field, he was just 4-for-37 (.108).
“You can’t really worry about what the other teams are doing,” Hicks said. “You’ve got to go out and get as many wins as you can and win as many series as you can, and then check out the results in September.”
Cano, who got the final out of the seventh, retired the first two batters of the eighth before Franco walked. Bautista’s first hitter, Margot, flied to center, ending the eighth.
Bautista hit Arozarena with a pitch to begin the ninth and then recorded three outs for his 20th save.
Despite Tampa Bay’s six straight runs, Hyde has something novel this year.
“I haven’t had Cano and Bautista in the past,” Hyde said. “That’s helpful. I got big outs with those guys at the end of the game. I didn’t have those guys before. I’m pitching them a lot. I’ve got to be careful this stretch.”
Notes: According to a report by The Washington Post, the Orioles and Nationals have reached an agreement in the Nationals’ suit over MASN television rights payments. The agreement settles the 2012-2016 payments, but the parties still have to address 2017-2021 … The Orioles games on July 18th against the Los Angeles Dodgers and August 8th against Houston will be shown nationally on TBS. … Minor league infielder/outfielder Toby Welk, the Orioles’ 21st -round selection in 2019, was released. … Tyler Wells (6-2, 3.20) will face Taj Bradley (4-3, 4.19) on Wednesday at 12:10 p.m.
Minor league update: The rehab assignments for first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and centerfielder Cedric Mullins will have to wait. Triple-A Norfolk’s game at Nashville was rained out.
Third baseman Coby Mayo and rightfielder Billy Cook hit two-run home runs in Double-A Bowie’s 4-1 win over Altoona. Mayo’s home run was his 12th.
Designated hitter Creed Willems hit a three-run home run and shortstop Jackson Holliday drove in three runs as High-A Aberdeen lost to Wilmington, 7-6.
Centerfielder Elio Prado hit a two-run homer and leftfielder Trendon Craig hit a solo shot in Single-A Delmarva’s 3-2 win over Augusta.