ST. PETERSBURG, Florida—The Orioles scored five runs in the fourth inning against a pitcher who had bedeviled them and hoped starter Grayson Rodriguez could coast to his first win in his second start since his recall from Triple-A Norfolk.
Instead, the Orioles’ offense shut down and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied to tie it at 5 in the eighth inning.
Ryan O’Hearn’s pinch-hit single scored Adam Frazier with the go-ahead run in the ninth as the Orioles pulled out a 6-5 win, putting them a game ahead of Tampa Bay in the American League East before an announced sellout crowd of 25,025 at Tropicana Field on Saturday.
Frazier was batting for Ramón Urías, and singled against Pete Fairbanks (1-3). James McCann tried to sacrifice, but as he tried to get away from Fairbanks’ fastball at his face, his bat hit the ball and Frazier moved to second on the sacrifice.
“Can we talk about McCann’s bunt?” O’Hearn said. “I don’t know if you guys saw the video yet, but that should be circulating on the Internet because that is unbelievable that he got that bunt down and didn’t get seriously injured on that pitch.”
It was McCann’s third sacrifice bunt of the season.
“Anything to help the team win,” McCann said. “I think as a professional baseball player it’s important to do everything and being good at every facet and be able to get the job done when your name’s called. I do take pride in being able to get it done. Today it was get it done or hurt tomorrow, so I’m glad I got it done.”
O’Hearn singled to right, and Frazier scored with the go-ahead run.
“I had an idea I might face Fairbanks there when they tied it up,” O’Hearn said. “I had a good look at him the last few days. I know what he throws. I was waiting on that slider. It’s kind of pick your poison with him. You know you’ve got to either look slider or look fastball. It’s hard to cover both. I’m glad that ball fell in.”
O’Hearn spent the previous five seasons playing with the Kansas City Royals, who had losing records each of those years, but wasn’t sure if it was the most crucial hit of his career.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” he said. “It wasn’t a homer, but it was definitely a big hit. The division’s tight. Every game matters and to be able to pull this one out is huge.”
Reliever Cionel Pérez (3-1) recorded the final out of the eighth. Closer Félix Bautista pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two for his 27th save.
“I do think this team has what it takes,” McCann said. “It’s a very good mix of young players with a lot of energy and veteran players that have been in that situation before. It’s a team that doesn’t quit. It’s guys that get after their business in a professional way and any time you put that all together, you’re going to end up with a lot of success on the field, and that’s what you’re seeing right now.”
The Orioles (60-38) had only two hits in Friday night’s 3-0 loss. They had five in the fourth inning, scoring five runs. Shane McClanahan, who was 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA in eight starts against the Orioles, didn’t allow a hit until Ryan Mountcastle singled with one out in the fourth.
McCann had a two-run double with the bases loaded, and Jorge Mateo followed with another two-run double. Austin Hays, who was hitless in 15 at-bats, doubled, and Mateo scored to give the Orioles a 5-0 lead.
“It was a weird game,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “There were a lot of huge things.”
McClanahan was removed after four innings. His five earned runs equaled a career high.
Through five innings, Rodriguez pitched to the minimum 15 batters, allowing one hit and a walk.
Josh Lowe walked to start the sixth, and Jose Siri doubled him to third. Rodriguez struck out Pinto and retired Yandy Diaz on a dribbler in front of the plate. Wander Franco singled, scoring Lowe and Siri, and Danny Coulombe relieved him.
Franco was immediately caught stealing on a throw by McCann to end the inning.
Rodriguez allowed two runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
“I feel like a totally different pitcher,” Rodriguez said of his two starts since the recall. “Back to what I know, I guess, and that’s just to go out and get outs. I think it gives me something to build off of. It definitely helped out my confidence. That’s definitely a really good team, loaded lineup, so I’m glad I’m able to come in here on the road and put my team in a spot to win.”
Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe singled with one out in the seventh against Coulombe. Parades singled against Coulombe, scoring Arozarena and Lowe, cutting the Orioles’ lead to 5-3.
Josh Lowe hit a sharp grounder to Mountcastle, who made a nice stop and tossed to Cano for the second out and Siri grounded to third to end the seventh.
In his second appearance for the Orioles, Shintaro Fujinami walked Manuel Margot and Yandy Diaz to start the eighth. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Margot scored on Franco’s grounder to second. After Harold Ramirez struck out, Arozarena’s single scored pinch-runner Vidal Bruján to allow Tampa Bay (61-41) to tie the score at 5.
“That’s a great team,” Rodriguez said of the Rays. “We’re going to see them later down the road—and a lot. I expect a lot of battles like that. It makes for a really exciting game.”
The Orioles have played seven consecutive series against AL East opponents without losing one for the first time since April 14th-June 22nd, 2014. On Sunday, they’ll try to win and leave Tampa Bay with a two-game lead over the Rays.
“There’s definitely some added intensity because of who we’re playing,” Hyde said. “In this ballpark, the crowd was electric. It’s the loudest I’ve ever seen it here. It’s been a lot of fun. They’re really close games. There’s good players on both sides, two really good teams.”
Notes: The Orioles signed left-hander T.J. McFarland, who pitched for the Orioles from 2013-2016, to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk. McFarland, who has also pitched for Arizona, Oakland, St. Louis and the New York Mets, was released by the Mets on July 18th. … The Orioles and Rays conclude their four-game series on Sunday with Tyler Wells (7-5, 3.54) facing Taj Bradley (5-6, 5.29) at 1:40 p.m. … Austin Voth will pitch in a rehab game for Double-A Bowie on Sunday. Voth is on the 15-day injured list with right elbow discomfort. … Jordan Westburg stole the first base of his career in the ninth.
Hyde on Rodriguez: The shaky bullpen cost Rodriguez a win in his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk. Hyde thinks the time at Norfolk was positive.
“Nobody wants to see that. It was something I talked about when it happened,” Hyde said before the game. “It can work to the player’s benefit. Does it feel good at the time? Nobody wants to see it, and you feel terrible for the guy. The high hopes and everything and the hype.
“Nobody’s going to remember that six years from now. He’s got big-time top-of-the rotation stuff. That was a great taste in the big leagues, some success, some struggles. He did a great job going down with the right attitude, the right work ethic, the right message to work on the things that you struggled with up here, and he did those things, and it showed up in his last start.”