Sometimes you have to win the game twice. Sometimes you have to do it twice within the same series.
Thursday the Orioles lost a two-run lead in the seventh but won the game. Yesterday they lost a five-run lead in the sixth and two-run lead in the eighth and yet won the game.
It is what good and tough teams can do. It is why the Orioles, who were 6.5 games back of the Rays on July 1, lead the AL East by one game today.
James McCann and Jorge Mateo drove in two runs each versus Shane McClanahan early on and late in the game McCann had an amazing sac bunt and Ryan O'Hearn had a clutch hit in the ninth. Once again there were several big plays on defense with Gunnar Henderson again in the middle of it. Cionel Pérez got a huge out and Félix Bautista was outstanding again.
It's been said this O's team features a roster without a lot of playoff experience. But they are certainly gaining big game experience in front of our eyes.
They will leave Tampa/St. Pete with a 2-2 split or a 3-1 series victory.
And within the division: As the Orioles have moved to the top of the standings in the American League East, they are also playing so much better this year in games within the AL East.
In 2022, when the Orioles won 31 more games than the year before, they went 34-42 (.447) in AL East games. This year they are 18-12 (.600). That is a big difference. A team playing at the first percentage would win 72 games over a full season. A team playing at the second would win 97.
The Orioles have not lost an AL series since April 9. In fact, they lost their first two AL East series of the year and are now 5-0-2 since, pending how this series with Tampa Bay ends up today. They will tie or win this series, but won't lose it.
The Orioles in the division this year:
* Went 1-2 at Boston
* Went 1-2 vs. NY Yankees
* Went 2-1 vs. Boston
* Went 2-1 vs. Tampa Bay
* Went 3-0 at Toronto
* Went 2-1 at NY Yankees
* Went 2-1 vs. Toronto
* Went 1-1 at Tampa Bay
* Went 2-2 at NY Yankees
* Are 2-1 this series at Tampa Bay
How the AL East has fared against the AL East this year:
.600 - Orioles and Tampa Bay (18-12)
.593 - Boston (16-11)
.433 - New York (13-17)
.259 - Toronto (7-20)
The Orioles' play against Tampa Bay has dramatically improved. They went 1-18 versus the Rays in 2021, but are 14-13 since the start of last year. Tampa Bay has won the season series six straight years and the O’s have a chance to end that streak.
From Aug. 25, 2020 to April 10, 2022 the Orioles went 2-27 versus the Rays. Since that point, they are 14-10 in the last 24 games between the clubs.
Wells looks to rebound today: He is coming off an outlier – a bad outing. There have been a few of them this year for O’s right-hander Tyler Wells. As he pitches today’s series finale at the Trop he is 7-5 with a 3.54 ERA over 19 games.
He ranks first in the majors in WHIP at 0.984, just ahead of Tampa Bay right-hander Zach Eflin who shut down the Birds Friday night. He ranks 15th in the AL in ERA. Not bad for a pitcher the Orioles got in the December 2020 Rule 5 draft and a pitcher that had Tommy John surgery in 2018.
He’s had a consistently good year. But Wells told me in a recent interview that now is not the time for him to reflect on the success he is having this season.
“I don’t look at it except in the aspect of, I’m enjoying where I’m at. I am just constantly thinking I have a job to do every five days. As my dad would say I don’t sit back and smell the flowers where I’m at, because we are not in a World Series yet and that is where I want to be. If we get to that point, I can sit back and smell the roses, but right now I have my nose to the grindstone and am staying focused on what I need to do," he said.
Wells gave up five runs over two innings on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That outing followed an eight-start stretch where he had gone 4-3 with a 2.83 ERA.
He’ll try to pitch the Birds to a win today as they get ready to leave the Trop against a team that has gotten to him in his career. He is 0-3 with a 5.93 ERA and .808 OPS in his career versus Tampa Bay. In six starts this year within the AL East, Wells is 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA.
Farm notes: Low Single-A Delmarva catcher Samuel Basallo left a game last night with left leg muscle spasms. Basallo, 18, from the Dominican Republic, is one of the Orioles' top international talents. He is ranked in the top 100 at No. 59 via Baseball America and No. 95 by MLBPipeline.com.
Over 77 games for the Shorebirds, Basallo has hit .296/.374/.498/.872 with 17 doubles, three triples, 12 homers and 59 RBIs.
At Bowie, Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 prospect in the minors, hit his first Double-A homer and it tied the game with Harrisburg 5-5 in the last of the seventh. Two batters later, John Rhodes hit No. 9 to give Bowie the lead and the Baysox won 8-5.
Bowie is 42-47 overall, 11-9 in the second-half and 9-2 over the last 11 games.