Baltimore improved to 5-3 after defeating the Rays by a score of 5-1 on Sunday afternoon. Following a tough two-game series loss to the Yankees, the O’s responded well in the team’s first series sweep since the 2018 season.
After getting shelled by the Yankees’ hitters in game one and losing a late inning heartbreaker in game two, the O’s continued their poor form into the Rays series. Tampa Bay took an early 2-0 lead by the third inning, as Alex Cobb took the mound for Baltimore. However, the Orioles fought back and tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth inning and would not look back. RBIs by Anthony Santander, Rio Ruiz and Hanser Alberto propelled the O’s to a 6-3 victory.
Alberto continued his scorching hot start to the season with a 3-for-5, two run, one RBI performance at the plate. Santander was the player of the game with three hits and three RBI.
Cobb was solid in his four innings pitched, allowing only four hits; however, Paul Fry received the win, as he pitched 1.2 innings in relief. Cole Sulser recorded the save, and the Orioles started a series with a victory for the first time this season.
Following a come-from-behind victory in game one, the roles reversed, as the Orioles took an early lead, and the Rays fought back late in game two. A Renato Núñez solo home run and a Rio Ruiz RBI single in the fourth inning broke the scoreless tie and put the O’s up 2-0.
Despite a quality start by Wade LeBlanc, Tampa Bay fought back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game at four runs in the top of the eighth inning. LeBlanc finished the game allowing four hits and one earned run over 5.1 innings pitched. The veteran left-hander struck out three hitters.
The Orioles had a number of chances to break the tie in the bottom of the ninth and tenth innings, but it wasn’t until the bottom of the eleventh that Baltimore broke through.
Pat Valaika scored the game-winning run with a single to right field that scored Bryan Holaday. The O’s swarmed Valaika from a safe, six-foot distance in celebration of the walkoff hit by the first-year Oriole.
Travis Lakins was the winning pitcher for the Orioles, and Oliver Drake was charged with the loss for the Rays. Dwight Smith Jr. had himself a game at the plate, hitting 2-for-4 and scoring two runs.
After close contests in games one and two of the Tampa Bay series, Baltimore never trailed in game three and took over late in the game.
Núñez started the scoring off with a solo home run in the third inning, as Tommy Milone threw five solid innings. He allowed one earned run and struck out eight batters.
Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe ended Milone’s chances of receiving a win, after he homered to center field in the beginning of the sixth inning.
Despite a 1-1 tie heading into the seventh inning, the Orioles took over from this point on. After laying down a bunt and then stealing second base, Cedric Mullins was scored by a Hanser Alberto double.
Núñez continued the hitting spree with a single that scored Alberto and put the O’s up 3-1. José Iglesias kept the momentum going with an RBI double to left field that scored Núñez.
Valaika added a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that secured a 5-1 victory and a series sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Evan Phillips was the winning pitcher, as Jalen Beeks received the loss, while Cole Sulser recorded his third save of the season.
Following the sweep of Tampa Bay, Baltimore is set to face the Miami Marlins at home Tuesday, pending the incoming weather. The Orioles currently sit at second place in the A.L East behind the Yankees (6-1).
The O’s have been off to a very hot start at the plate, scoring five or more runs in the last four games. Iglesias is currently hitting .526 with four RBI and two runs scored, while Alberto is averaging .429 with five RBI and seven runs.
The Orioles’ main weakness coming into the season is the bullpen, but so far the squad of relief pitchers has been better than expected. The O’s pen currently ranks fifth in the American League in strikeout percentage, while Baltimore has set a club record with five straight games with at least 10 total strikeouts.
It’s easy to get over excited about a sample size portion of games, but the Orioles have been playing like a team with something to prove early on.
Despite tough losses to the Yankees and Red Sox, the O’s have held their own in the division so far. We’ll see how long the bats can stay hot moving forward, but Iglesias and Alberto are currently leading a group of O’s that are playing inspired baseball.