The Rays managed to avoid a sweep by the Orioles on Sunday afternoon despite the O’s scoring 7 runs in the last 4 innings. The Rays never relinquished the lead in the game, which gave James Shields his 6th victory on the season, most in the league.
Tampa scored first in the 2nd inning. Elliot Johnson singled in Jeff Keppinger with one out, and Ben Zobrist knocked in Chris Gimenez and Johnson on a double to center field. The 3-0 lead was quickly narrowed as Chris Davis reached on an infield single to drive in a run.
Carlos Pena doubled to deep right field in the 3rd inning, and scored on a Will Rhymes single. The Rays got three more runs in the 4th inning off of four hits. Johnson bunted his way one base and Zobrist reached on a single to the pitcher. Matt Joyce singled in Johnson, and Carlos Pena lined his second double of the game down the first baseline, knocking in Zobrist and Joyce to make it a 7-1 ball game. Orioles’ starter Jake Arrieta was taken out after 3.2 innings, giving up 7 earned runs on 10 hits and 2 walks.
James Shields managed to put the O’s down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 4th and 5th innings, but he got in trouble in the 6th. J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis hit back to back doubles, making it a 5 run game. Matt Wieters then homered on a 93 MPH fastball left right down the middle of the plate, shrinking the Rays’ lead to 3 runs.
Shields came back out for the 7th frame, but could not finish it. Robert Andino led the inning off with a single. Ryan Flaherty then reached on a throwing error by Will Rhymes. James got Xavier Avery to strike out, but was relieved for Burke Badenhop who got Hardy to ground out. Jake McGee was then brought in with two outs and two on to face the lefty Markakis, who doubled on a ball that bounced off of a leaping B.J. Upton at the wall in center. Shields ended up going 6.1 innings, giving up 4 earned runs, off of 7 hits and 2 walks; he struck out 5.
With the game now 7-6 the Rays desperately needed insurance; another loss, especially after being up 7-1 might have caused panic throughout Rays’ fandom. Fortunately, Elliot Johnson and Ben Zobrist came through with back to back solo home runs, making it a 3 run game.
The game seemed out of reach again, but the feisty Orioles had other ideas. Nick Johnson homered off of Joel Peralta in the 8th inning to make it a 9-7 game. Fernando Rodney came in for the 9th, and narrowly escaped his first blown save of the season. With two outs, Adam Jones reached on an infield single that saw J.J. Hardy score on an ill-advised throw by Pena. With two outs, runners on 1st and 3rd, Matt Wieters grounded to 3rd, where Sean Rodriguez awkwardly dove and made a strong throw to 1st to end the game.
This was a big win for the Rays who, with a loss, would have dropped their 7th out of 8 games. After putting up 10 hits and 7 runs in the first 4 innings, the Rays only managed 3 hits the rest of the game; two of those were the blasts by Johnson and Zobrist, who combined for 6 hits, 5 runs, and 5 RBI. Pena, Joyce, and Rhymes all had 3 hits on the day. Joel Peralta continued to struggle, giving up one run in his inning, but the Rays can’t complain too much as they are lucky to leave Baltimore with a win.
The Rays start a two game series with the Blue Jays tomorrow night at 7:07, as they look to win back to back games for the first time since May 4.