O’s rally in ninth falls short as Rays win 5-3 in series opener

It was a stat that likely couldn’t hold up too much longer. But after the Orioles held Tampa Bay to two runs or less for seven straight games, going 6-1 in that stretch, tonight the Rays scored three runs in the last of the seventh to go on to a 5-3 win over the Orioles in Game 1 of a three-game series.

Coupled with New York’s 10-2 win over Boston, the Orioles dropped to second place, one game back of the Yankees in the AL East with two games remaining. Also, should Oakland beat Texas later tonight, the Orioles and A’s would be in a two-way tie for the AL’s top wild card spot.

The Orioles entered the ninth down by four but rallied to within two. Chris Davis hit a two-run homer to bring the Orioles within 5-3. It was his 32nd homer on the year and his sixth in the last five games. He is the first Oriole this year to homer in five consecutive games.

The O’s put runners on first and second with no outs but Fernando Rodney came to strike out Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds, and then he got Endy Chavez on a comebacker to the mound to close out the win.

Tampa took a 1-0 lead off Wei-Yin Chen when Ben Zobrist homered in the fourth. The Orioles were held scoreless by Alex Cobb until Matt Wieters hit a solo homer that just got over the left-field wall in the seventh. It was his career-high 23rd homer and his 10th homer in his past 44 games.

Wieters’ homer was the Orioles’ 15th over the last five games.

But Tampa took advantage of a leadoff error by third baseman Manny Machado to score three times in the last of the seventh. A sac fly put the Rays ahead 2-1 and a two-out, two-run double by No. 9 hitter Chris Gimenez made it a 4-1 lead. All three runs in that inning were unearned.

Chen took a tough loss allowing four runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 to fall to 12-11 with an ERA of 4.02. Cobb gave up just two hits over seven innings in gaining the win to improve to 11-9 with an ERA of 4.03

The Orioles lost for just the fourth time over the last 15 games to fall to 92-68. They are 42-28 vs. the AL East and are 9-7 against the Rays after a five-game win streak vs. Tampa ended tonight.

The Rays needed to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Rays are 11-1 over their last 12 games, outscoring their opponents 79-29. Rays pitchers have allowed two earned runs or less in seven of the past eight games. An Oakland win tonight would eliminate Tampa from playoff consideration.

In the second game of this series on Tuesday night, it’s Miguel Gonzalez (8-4, 3.45 ERA) against James Shields (15-9, 3.62 ERA).

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