ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A couple of the Orioles’ relievers ditched the bullpen bench after the bottom of the sixth inning tonight and began to get loose. No throwing was involved with Andrew Cashner at 83 pitches and cruising, but arms began to flap and rotate. Hamstrings were stretched.
A one-run lead might be passed along and there are no longer the predictable choices awaiting manager Buck Showalter. Or a game might be tied due to more defensive breakdowns, which is how it played out. It’s almost as if they knew.
Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day are gone, the latter already unavailable after undergoing season-ending hamstring surgery. Guys are being tested or placed in roles that wouldn’t have fallen to them before the trades. And they aren’t getting much help behind them.
The memory of last night’s implosion was fresh. The two unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth that tied the game, a rally fueled by three walks from Evan Phillips, and Willy Adames’ walk-off home run against Miguel Castro in the ninth.
Left-hander Tanner Scott entered in the eighth tonight after another unearned run off Cashner had knotted the score. Mike Wright Jr. inherited a two-on, one-out jam, struck out pinch-hitter C.J. Cron and surrendered a bloop double to Carlos Gomez that scored Matt Duffy and moved the Rays in front.
This is where the story takes a crazy turn. The Orioles scored two off Sergio Romo in the ninth on Trey Mancini’s double and Mychal Givens - now handling the closer duties - notched his third career save in a 5-4 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles improved to 35-79 overall and won on the road for only the third time in their last 18 tries. They’re now 2-71 when trailing after the eighth inning.
Five more errors tonight, including back-to-back miscues by second baseman Jonathan Villar and catcher Caleb Joseph with two outs in the ninth inning, ran the Orioles’ season total to 78, and that’s not counting the plays that aren’t made and go down as hits or as fielder’s choice. Valencia let Gomez’s ball drop in front of him instead of charging it. The box score will show that Gomez had an RBI double.
Cashner was charged with three runs in seven innings, but only one earned, and he allowed only one hit after the first inning. It didn’t come until Adames reached on an infield single in the seventh.
Gomez was hit by a pitch with one out in the seventh and Beckham was charged with his 17th error of the season after he missed the bag while taking Renato Núñez’s throw on an attempted force. Kevin Kiermaier’s ball was hit hard enough to entertain the idea of turning a double play, but Núñez had to wait for Beckham. Villar became a spectator.
Beckham slipped while backhanding Adames’ grounder and threw late to load the bases. No error, but a play that must be made. Gomez scored the tying run on a sacrifice popup, with Beckham running down the ball in shallow left with his back turned to the infield and unable to make a strong or accurate throw with his momentum carrying him away from the plate.
Smith grounded out on Cashner’s 100th pitch to end the inning, the play so close that Chris Davis threw home just in case the call went against the Orioles. It held up upon review.
Trumbo broke a 2-2 tie with a home run off left-hander Jalen Beeks leading off the top of the fourth inning. His opposite-field shot was his fourth homer during a 10-game hitting streak.
Beckham and Adam Jones hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches from Ryne Stanek in the top of the first inning for a quick 2-0 lead. Beckham also homered last night. Jones has homered twice since June 2, both times against the Rays.
Jones paused at the plate to watch how he reversed a 98.5 mph fastball, which traveled an estimated 418 feet, according to Statcast.
All five home runs in the series have come with the bases empty.
The Rays tied the game in the bottom of the first by taking advantage of two Orioles errors. Cashner allowed three hits, including RBIs singles by Jake Bauers and Joey Wendle.
The Orioles have been outscored 91-55 in the first inning this season.
Smith led off with a single, stole second base and raced to third after Joseph’s throw skipped into center field. Joseph almost nabbed Bauers, but Beckham was charged with an error after he failed to handle the throw.
Cashner threw 22 pitches in the first, but only nine in the second and third. He retired 10 in a row after Wendle’s single and 18 of 19, the only interruption a walk to Gomez with two outs in the fourth.
It was a nice recovery by Cashner after he surrendered 10 runs in 1 2/3 innings in his last start in Texas.
The Rays removed Stanek after two innings and four strikeouts. Beeks served up Trumbo’s home run, but he escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the seventh and held the Orioles to only two hits in five innings.
The Orioles’ defense kept breaking down, but they somehow managed to piece together a win. Three solo home runs, five errors and one final rally.
Probably one agitated manager, as well.