O's saw blue skies among some clouds ahead of latest walk-off win

However you want to say it – the Orioles have some heart, they have guts, they are becoming tough to beat, they have a ticker – pick the words, but this team continues to get better in front of our eyes.

For the third time in four games, the team won via a walk-off victory, doing so over the Yankees and Rays - two American League East rivals that combined for 192 wins last year.

Before Sunday’s game, O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias spoke with reporters in the dugout and addressed several topics including his latest take on the progress of the organization’s rebuilding effort. He gave it high marks.

"I think everyone in the company, ownership on down, is very pleased with the foundation, the processes that have been laid, the infrastructure that we have across our organization right now and it’s just about building and growing from here," Elias said.

“But we’ve got blue skies ahead of us. We’ve got a No. 1 farm system, we’ve got a young, talented major league team. We have payroll flexibility where we are past the pandemic and there are going to be more and more people coming into the ballpark. We’re going to be renovating this place. There is a lot to look forward to. I’m very excited and feel like the most difficult, arduous part of the work that we’ve had to do is kind of behind us.

“I think we’ve got a lot challenges ahead of us in keeping guys healthy, making the right draft picks, making the right free (agent) signings, bringing the right players in here. All that normal stuff that every baseball team faces.

“But I think the challenges we had that were unique to the Orioles – not having international, analytics, modernizing player development, all that stuff – that’s in a really good spot. And we have a pipeline underneath the young, talented team you see right in front of us. But we’ve got to make a lot of smart decisions going forward and we know that’s not easy either.”

Blue skies ahead of this team sounds good and maybe Elias has a point here.

When the Orioles beat the Rays via a walk-off homer from Rougned Odor in the 13th inning Friday, Tampa Bay outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said of the Birds: “Watching them the last couple years, they’re not far off from competing – their time is coming.”

Maybe Kiermaier has a point.

The Orioles just walked off the Rays twice in one weekend after beating them just once in the entire season last year.

When the weekend began, the Orioles had lost 15 in a row to Tampa Bay. They were 1-21 versus the Rays since the start of the 2021 season and were outscored 165-75 in those games. They went 1-18 last year and then got swept in this year's season-opening series at Tropicana Field.

Then they beat the Rays two out of a three. A Rays team that was 11-5 in its last 16 games and 18-9 in its last 27 games as they rolled into Baltimore. A Rays team that had won nine in a row at Oriole Park.

On Sunday, O’s starter Spenser Watkins faced three batters, got none out and left with a right forearm contusion, with initial X-rays negative. The O’s pieced together 11 innings from a bullpen that allowed just two earned runs Sunday. Lefty Cionel Perez was throwing 96 and 97 mph those last two innings, stranding five runners in the 10th and 11th.

The O’s have won via a walk-off three times in four games for the first time since Sept. 25-29, 1974.

In those four games, the Orioles allowed 24 runs, but won three of them as their offense scored 25 runs on 38 hits.

The Orioles are 5-3-1 the past nine series. They are 7-5 in their past 12 games decided by two runs or less. They won a series over the Rays for the first time since July 31-Aug. 2, 2020. They already have series wins over three AL East teams in the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox. They have yet to play the Blue Jays.

The Orioles are now 4-0 in extra innings and 1-23 when trailing after eight innings.

So maybe there was some blue above all those clouds late in the game Sunday at Camden Yards.

On the farm: Triple-A Norfolk routed Charlotte by the football score of 14-3 Sunday as outfielder Kyle Stowers tied a team record hitting three home runs. Ryan McKenna had done that earlier this season.

Stowers hit solo homers in the fifth and sixth innings and then added a three-run shot in the seventh. He has nine homers on the season. During an eight-game hitting streak, Stowers is batting .438 (14-for-32) with four doubles, six homers, six walks and 13 RBIs. He has hit six homers his past seven games.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez got the win and is now 4-1 with an ERA of 2.70. He threw a season-high six innings allowing two runs with one walk and nine strikeouts. He has thrown 80 or more pitches the last four games and his ERA is 1.25 in those games.

The Tides went 5-1 in that series and improved to 20-22, hitting six homers. That is the most they’ve hit as an O’s affiliate and most by that franchise since bashing seven in a game as a Mets affiliate in 2005.

Jordan Westburg hit a two-run homer as Double-A Bowie lost 8-7 to Hartford – the ninth loss in 10 games for the Baysox. Westburg’s OPS is now .805. Gunnar Henderson went 1-for-3 with two more walks and his OPS is .988.

High Single-A Aberdeen has a three-game losing streak and 26-11 mark after losing 9-4 to Rome, which becomes the first club this season to win a series against Aberdeen.

Low Single-A Delmarva won five of six during the week and beat Fredericksburg 11-4 Sunday as Isaac Bellony had three hits and three RBIs.

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