And the beat goes on. The Rays got another win Monday night cutting their deficit in the wildcard race to three games. Tampa Bay was on the road in Baltimore and shut down the O’s to get a 5-2 victory.
Coming off the emotionally charged series with the Red Sox, it could have been understandable for the Rays to lose focus against the Orioles. That was not the case though as Jeff Niemann set the tone early. He retired nine of the first ten batters he faced and allowed six hits in seven and two thirds. It was a key performance for Niemann after giving up 12 runs in his last two starts. Monday night was more of the form he showed in July and August when he was 7-1 and gave up an average of less than two runs per game.
While Niemann kept the Orioles’ bats quiet, the Rays were able to build him an early lead. With Brandon Guyer and B.J. Upton on base in the third, Ben Zobrist hit a two out double that cleared the bases. Following a walk to Johnny Damon, Sean Rodriguez singled and made the game 3-0. The Rays would add a run each in the fifth and the seventh, but the three spot was all they needed.
Niemann gave up an RBI double to Robert Andino in the fifth and a homerun to Matt Wieters in the sixth, but that would be all the Orioles’ offense could muster. J.P. Howell got an out to end the eighth and Joel Peralta came in to get the save in the ninth. Kyle Farnsworth, who had blown his last two save opportunities, sat and watched as Peralta came in and struck out the side to close the game.
The Rays gained a half game on the idle Boston Red Sox and have two more games left against the O’s before heading to Boston for another crucial three game set. Baltimore will be sending out Alfredo Simon to face David Price Tuesday night. In Price’s last start against the O’s, a little over a week ago, he looked strong for six innings but gave up three runs in the seventh and the Rays lost 3-2. Hopefully the Rays can get Price some more offense and he can avenge that heartbreaking loss.