It wasn’t exactly the way the Orioles drew it up, as their starter left the game in the fourth, but they used six pitchers and a huge game at the plate by J.J. Hardy to beat Tampa Bay 9-2 in Game 1 of a big three-game series at Camden Yards.
Pending the outcome of the Yankees-Red Sox game in Boston, the Orioles trail the first-place Bronx Bombers by a half-game.
Instant update: The Red Sox walked off with a 4-3 win over the Yankees, meaning the O’s and Yankees are tied for first place in the American League East. The ending to the game was shown on the center field scoreboard at Camden Yards and drew a loud cheer from fans on Eutaw Street exiting the ballpark.
Jason Hammel left after 3 2/3 with a right knee injury. That is the same knee that underwent arthroscopic surgery in July that forced Hammel to miss about seven weeks.
He was followed to the mound by Steve Johnson, Luis Ayala, Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day and Pedro Strop. That group combined on a five-hitter as the Orioles got the victory.
Meanwhile, the Orioles scored nine runs off a Rays pitching staff that leads the majors in ERA and entered this game with a 2.46 ERA since the All-Star break.
Hardy had four hits, including two homers, and drove in five runs for the Orioles. He hit two-run homers in the third and eighth innings. This was his ninth career two-homer game and second of this year. He also did it on May 6 at Boston. It’s the third time in his career he drove in five or more runs and first time since he had five on May 12, 2007 for Milwaukee versus the New York Mets.
The O’s scored in six different innings. Matt Wieters went 3-for-4 including a two-run double. Chris Davis hit a solo homer, his 25th of the year.
The Orioles have now scored 30 runs in the five games of this homestand and they have scored 97 over the last 17 games.
Losing pitcher Matt Moore gave up four hits and three runs over four innings, throwing 94 pitches. He began the day with an ERA of 2.44 in 10 starts since the break.
The Orioles improved to 79-62 with the victory which was their sixth in the last nine games. They have also won 12 of 17, 18 of 27 and 24 of the last 35 games.
Tampa Bay had won 21 of 32 games entering this series, but now falls two games back of the Orioles in the division and wild card race at 77-64.
In Game 2 of the series on Wednesday night, Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.62 ERA) pitches for the Orioles vs. Tampa right-hander Alex Cobb (9-8, 4.28 ERA).