ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The lineup may not have been the most conventional, with manager Buck Showalter choosing right-handed hitters Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry to handle the outfield corners against a right-hander. He started Paul Janish at shortstop for the second consecutive day and put Caleb Joseph behind the plate despite a turnaround that didn’t really qualify as quick.
Fans on social media mocked the lineup, particularly the bottom third of Joseph, Gentry and Janish. Some of them went to church specifically to pray for it. A few candles might have been lit.
The doubters were the ones burned.
Gentry ran down Logan Morrison’s liner in right-center field to end the first inning and strand a runner on third base. Others may have been late to the ball. Joseph singled with two outs in the second inning, Gentry doubled and they both scored on Janish’s single into center field. Joseph homered in the fourth, threw out Daniel Robertson trying to steal second base with the score tied in the eighth and singled to lead off the ninth.
Gentry laid down a sacrifice bunt, the Rays walked pinch-hitter Seth Smith intentionally and Rickard lined a double into the left field corner to break the tie. The Orioles added two more runs off reliever Alex Colomé and took the series with an 8-5 victory at Tropicana Field.
It was their first road series win since April 18-20 in Cincinnati.
Be careful what you mock.
The Orioles improved to 37-38 overall and 13-24 on the road. They’re off Monday before starting a three-game series in Toronto.
The Rays twice ordered intentional walks and they backfired. First with Rickard’s automatic double and then with Colomé hitting Jonathan Schoop on the left hand after Manny Machado was given first base.
Schoop was hit twice today, raising his total to nine. He stayed in the game after Colomé drilled him on the side of his hand - the Rays challenged that it was a foul ball - but the Orioles will have flashbacks to J.J. Hardy’s broken wrist and may order tests.
Schoop led off the eighth inning with a home run off reliever Chase Whitley to tie the game 5-5. He leads the Orioles with 17 RBIs in the seventh inning or later.
Trey Mancini homered on the last pitch thrown by Jake Odorizzi with one out in the sixth to reduce Tampa Bay’s lead to 5-4. Mancini’s 14 home runs are the most by an Orioles rookie before the All-Star break.
Meanwhile, Dylan Bundy offered a reprieve yesterday. The rotation wasn’t an issue for one glorious afternoon, and the Orioles held an opponent under five runs to end an embarrassing streak.
Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher and Chris Tillman couldn’t sustain it.
Tillman served up a three-run homer to Evan Longoria in the fifth inning, lost a lead and soon lost his place on the mound, with manager Buck Showalter pulling him after 92 pitches.
Tillman allowed five runs (four earned) and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. In his last four starts, he’s surrendered 24 runs (23 earned) and 34 hits over 15 innings.
Tillman’s ERA held at 8.39 in 44 innings.
Longoria’s home run followed singles by Mallex Smith and Corey Dickerson to open the inning and gave the Rays a 5-3 lead. Longoria is 20-for-66 with four doubles, a triple and nine home runs lifetime against Tillman.
Logan Morrison lined to right and Showalter made the switch, bringing in Stefan Crichton.
Shutdown innings eluded Tillman, as they seem to do with everyone on the staff. Taylor Featherston had an RBI single in the second after the Orioles took a 2-0 lead. Featherston lifted a sacrifice fly to right in the fourth after Joseph hit a solo home run in the top half.
The run was unearned because Tillman threw wildly to first base on a pickoff attempt after Robertson’s single.
Tillman threw 26 pitches in the fourth, the first 12 to Trevor Plouffe before inducing a fly ball. Maybe it took something out of him in the fifth.
Darren O’Day registered his 500th career strikeout after replacing Richard Bleier with a runner on first base and no outs in the seventh. He got Steven Souza Jr. swinging at an 80 mph slider, with Joseph holding onto the foul tip.
O’Day coaxed a double play grounder out of Plouffe to also give him 500 major league innings.
Janish’s two-run single allowed the Orioles to again jump out to a 2-0 lead. His last RBI came on Oct. 1, 2015 against the Blue Jays. His last multi-RBI game was Aug. 26, 2012 in San Francisco, when he also had the second of his two career triples. It was a wonderful time to be alive.
Gentry had two extra-base hits, a double and a home run, in 49 plate appearances before today.
Nice lineup. Nice win.
Showalter on not winning road series since April: “It’s not a theme or a subject matter or a thought. There’s always something we get asked before a game, after a game and rightfully so. You get involved in trends too much, you’re going to really stretch them out, so not really. Just want to play some crisp baseball games.
“Tilly was better today. I thought his tempo and rhythm was a lot better. I thought the corner outfielders offensively and defensively were the difference in the game. We made a lot of plays in the corners that haven’t (been) made this year.”
Showalter on Rickard’s double after being down 0-2: “He made a little mistake with a breaking ball that he was able to smother down the line. Joey gave a peek back over his shoulder. I’m getting ready to tell him: ‘Don’t look back at me.’ In a tie game, I’m going to play the defense there anyway, and that guy’s hard on anybody. Right or left, it doesn’t really matter.”
Showalter on bullpen going 4 2/3 scoreless innings: “It’s a byproduct of the starting pitching and Dylan’s outing yesterday. We had people available. We didn’t have to stretch everybody out. I had Mychal (Givens) if I needed, if Brad got stretched out. Brad was going to pitch regardless. He didn’t have that many pitches. If we made the play we should have made, he would have had about 12 or 13 the inning before.
“It all revolves around the starting pitching yesterday. It allows us to do that, especially with the off-day. I didn’t want Brad to have six days off before his next outing. It worked out well. There were a lot of good at-bats. You can make a case he’s closing as well as anybody. He’s got what, (13) saves?
“Jon’s making a run at the lead, the hit-by-pitch, isn’t he? It’s not one you want the lead.”
Showalter on whether Schoop’s hand is OK: “I think so. He’s beat up all through there.”
Showalter on crisp baseball: “We were able to do it with Joey and Gentry. They impact the game in a lot of areas. He made a play in the first inning that got Tilly going. Chris had some good sequences. It got away from him there a little bit in the fifth. We had some people available in the bullpen and we didn’t have to overuse them yesterday.”
Showalter on Joseph’s caught-stealing: “You give Caleb a chance, and he’s going to throw them out. The guy’s pretty quick to the plate. Brad’s really quick to the plate. He’s hard to run on.”
Showalter on Janish: “There’s one thing. The pitcher’s got to throw that ball to have a chance to do it. Paul, there’s a reason we brought him back. He’s solid defensively. He doesn’t have the range he used to have, but who does? You can’t count on one hand the amount of impactful plays that Joey and Craig made today. That’s kind of what we were able to do in the past.”
Showalter on taking series after trailing: “We were ahead, too. Back and forth. Two teams, you’re competing. Best players in the world all trying to attain something. We’re all shooting for something. It means that you have a better off-day tomorrow in Canada and then it starts back up the next day.”
Janish on rare multi-RBI game and defense: “I guess, from a math standpoint, it was about time I got a multi-RBI, but no, it was good to get on the board early, get a little comfort zone there. Tampa is playing good ball, so to get on the board early and get a little breathing room was good. And on the defensive side, the pitchers did their job. Got a lot of ground balls. It’s kind of our formula here. Fortunately, we were able to turn some double plays and get out of innings.”
Janish on contributions from bottom third of order: “That’s big obviously for us down there at the bottom. That’s what we were hoping to do. We were joking about it, saying it was just like spring training all over again. We do this every year in spring training, why not do it during the year? It was good. Hopefully, it gives (Showalter) the opportunity to give some guys off when they need it and we can fill in and do the job.”
Janish on crisp play of team last two days: “There’s no question. This game is a funny game. It goes good and it goes bad and it can snowball both ways. Hopefully, we just finished a rough stretch. Being able to win a series on the road, we obviously haven’t played well on the road of late. Hopefully, it does the opposite. Hopefully, it snowballs and we start going the other way. We can get just as hot as we were cold and that’s the mindset we’re going to take going forward.”
Rickard on looking over his shoulder before at-bat: “I was looking back because the stuff was still in the batter’s box. I was wondering where the batboy was. It’s awesome that he has confidence in me right there.”
Rickard on so many contributors: “That’s what makes good teams great, it’s that we have our star players and our big-name guys and they’re going to do their part. But it’s nice to help them out once in a while.”
Rickard on approach against Colomé after down 0-2: “I just wanted to go up there and try to put up a good fight, shorten up a little bit and continue to stay aggressive.”
Rickard on first road series win since April: “Yeah, that is hard to believe. But it is what it is, and hopefully this is the start of something good.”
Tillman on how he felt: “Better. Command was better with the fastball. It’s a start.”
Tillman on bullpen: “They’re constantly good. They’re always good. I feel like those guys are solid when you give them the chance. When you’re not playing well, you’re not setting them up in their position to pitch, then sometimes it doesn’t go their way. But when you set them up to pitch where they need to be pitching, they’re pretty darn good.”
Tillman on what needs to get better for him: “Fastball command in general was better. It felt like there were a million foul balls. I probably could have executed with my off-speed a little better to take away some of the foul balls. I feel like that would have helped a little bit, but you’ve just got to get contact earlier in the counts.”
Joseph on contributions from unheralded guys: “Really nice. Paul had a big couple hits, drove in a run. Craig laid down a nice bunt, jump-started a few rallies there. Anytime you get on base, you turn it over for the big boys there at the top, it’s kind of a recipe that we want to try to implement every time we’re in there. Today, we were able to do that.”
Joseph on first series win since April: “It’s been that long? Time goes by really quick, so you don’t recognize that you’re really that far deep into not winning a road series. This was a really nice win for us. We come from behind. Out to an early lead, couldn’t hold it and then really fought. A good rubber match.
“They’re playing good baseball there. Dylan came out yesterday and kind of got us back on track and we tried to carry that into today. We were able to do it. Bullpen had a really nice game today, we got some clutch hits.”
Joseph on Tillman: “I told him after the game, I said ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of being beaten by little singles here and there.’ He leaves the changeup up to Longoria and that’s the only ball that got hit really hard. He’s getting really close. I know the pitch limit and innings isn’t encouraging, but I thought his stuff was pretty good. Just getting back to form. Sometimes it takes some time after an injury like that to really come back to form.
“The big thing is he didn’t let it get out of hand. What we’ve seen unfortunately quiet often is those innings and games can get out of hand quite often and he was able to shut it down and that’s probably the reason we won the game.”