A season ago, seeing the Tampa Bay Rays was considered an automatic loss for the Baltimore Orioles.
Going 1-18 for the season against the division rivals in 2021, many people expected the same with a rebuilding Orioles club this year.
Coming out of the break, the Orioles danced with the Yankees, not backing down against the division leaders. The Birds then welcomed the Rays, where what easily could of been a sweep, was a series win, three games to one.
Game one saw the Orioles deliver a four-run fifth inning in an otherwise quiet game. The Oriole bullpen provided six innings of four-hit ball, and Nick Vespi (3-0) would pick up the win, pitching 1.2 innings, allowing one hit and collecting four strikeouts.
A Ryan Mountcastle two-run single and an error by Ji-Man Choi, the Rays’ first in 10 games, would lead to two runs that would put the O’s ahead, 5-1, in what would be all the scoring for the game.
Game two saw Spenser Watkins struggle through 5.1 innings, as he allowed 10 hits during his outing. He would allow only three runs, which would be all the offense the Rays could muster.
Fortunately for the Orioles, the never-say-die mentality would once again show through.
Shane McClanahan would pitch seven innings of two-hit ball, yielding home runs to Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santader. It was after McClanahan would be pulled the Cardiac Birds would pounce.
Rutschman would lead-off the inning with a single, before Ramón Urías would hit the go ahead two-run home run. Mateo would hit a double and steal third, as Trey Mancini would hit a sacrifice fly for an insurance run.
Once again, the bullpen would pitch 3.2 innings, allowing no runs, with All-Star Jorge López picking up his 19th save on the season. The Birds moved to fourth place in the division and behind the Guardians in the AL Wild Card standings.
Game three would go in the Rays’ favor with little going right for Baltimore.
The normally-dependable Tyler Wells would go 4.1 innings but yielded four runs before leaving with a lower back injury (Wells was placed on the 15-Day IL).
Though the bullpen would take the loss, they would pitch 5.2 innings, allowing two runs in the 10th inning, which would be the difference.
Jorge Mateo hit the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, but that would be the end of the scoring for Baltimore, as the Rays took this one, 6-4, in 10 innings.
Game four was the Orioles’ from the get go. It was Mo Gaba Day in Charm City.
Jordan Lyles would take the mound and pitch 5.2 innings of three-hit shut out ball. Though he walked four and hit a batter, the gritty veteran would hold steady and keep Tampa Bay off the board.
The bullpen followed with 3.1 innings of one-hit ball and, once again, not allow a run. In all, the bullpen was 1-1 with a save and allowed two runs in 18.2 innings of work (0.97 ERA) across the series.
The highlight of the series came from Trey Mancini. With the Orioles hanging to a 1-0 lead, Austin Hays would double as the second batter of the inning.
Mancini would come up to bat and would hit a fly ball to right field. With Mo watching from above, his best friend would get a little assistance.
Josh Lowe would lose the ball to the sun, which came out for the first time all game once Mancini hit the ball, and it would graze off his face and roll towards the right field foul line. Mancini would race around the bases, scoring the first O’s inside-the-park home run since Robert Andino in 2011.
In what might be Trey Mancini’s final home game as an Oriole, the 16,000 fans in attendance chanted his name for a curtain call. The veteran, who remains beloved by Baltimore, came out and gave what could be his final wave to the home crowd.
Mo would be proud.
”I had some help from somebody. That was absolutely insane. I’d like to think Mo had a hand in it.”– Trey Mancini on his inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning
The Baltimore Battery ❌-Factor headinh into the series was Adley Rutschman. The young rookie could put himself in position to be the difference maker, and he did his fair share to make it happen.
At the plate, Rutschman went 2-for-7 (.286 BA), but he would have three walks and a hit-by-pitch to extend his on-base streak to eight. He scored four runs and raised his OBP by .015 points.
Behind the plate, he helped navigate 15 innings of the bullpen’s dominate performance, while helping keep the opposition off bay with his defense.
As the trade deadline approaches, it will be interesting to see what the Orioles and how they plan going forward. Who will stay, who will be traded and who will be called up? The next few days will be interesting to say the least.
The Orioles are currently 50-49 and sit three games behind Tampa Bay in the AL Wild Card standings. A date with the Cincinnati Reds starts tomorrow night.
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