Orioles open important series by ripping Rays (updated)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Opposing teams at Tropicana Field must become educated on the unique ground rules during their pregame studies. Be able to recite the outcome if a ball strikes one of the catwalks. Know whether it remains in play and what happens if it’s caught or lands on the turf.

Adley Rutschman didn’t let the quirks complicate his at-bat tonight in the first inning. He swung hard and hit the longest home run of his young career, perhaps unaware that the ball slammed into the C-ring in right field before it could punch a hole in the roof.

He just circled the bases. No one was going to stop him, or the team trying to move into third place in its division and the wild card race

Rutschman’s 439-foot shot staked Austin Voth to a quick lead, the right-hander carried a no-hit bid into the sixth, Jorge Mateo collected five hits, and Cedric Mullins also nailed the C-ring in the eighth, as if the Orioles were playing a carnival game instead of beginning a crucial series with a 10-3 victory over the Rays.

Voth retired the first 10 batters and didn’t allow a hit until Jose Siri’s infield single leading off the sixth, and the Orioles improved to 59-53. They’re a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay in both races.

The Orioles lead the season series 9-8, with two wins in seven games at The Trop. They went 1-18 against the Rays last summer.

"Definitely one of our better offensive nights," said manager Brandon Hyde, who announced afterward that DL Hall is starting Saturday afternoon, with Jordan Lyles going Sunday. "I love how we kept the line moving a couple of those innings, with some really good two-strike, two-out hitting. Got a bunch of big hits all the way down the lineup."

The nine wins against the Rays are the most for the Orioles versus any opponent since 2017. They beat the Blue Jays 12 times and the Red Sox 10.

"We're a lot better team this year," Hyde said. "We're more well-rounded, we're pitching better, we're playing better defense. We're dangerous offensively."

The Rays were shut out until Randy Arozarena’s two-run homer off Voth that followed Siri’s single. Voth went 5 1/3 innings and threw 80 pitches, both highs with the Orioles.

Rutschman hadn’t homered since July 16, also in St. Petersburg but without the obstruction. Corey Kluber’s cutter was launched at 33 degrees and sped 106.9 mph off the bat per Statcast data.

The only drama was whether Arozarena would play the carom, which he did.

Mullins hit the ring against former Orioles pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis after Mateo singled and was caught stealing. Rutschman drew his nightly walk after the homer.

It was the sixth time in the ballpark's history that multiple fair balls hit the catwalk in the same game, and the fourth time resulting in multiple home runs.

"I didn't really see it hit the catwalk," Rutschman said. "I just thought it was a home run off the bat, so I just kind of put my head down and started jogging."

Kluber retired the first two batters in the second inning and fell behind 2-0 on singles by Rougned Odor and Ramón Urías, and Mateo’s popup in right field that fell for a double.

Voth’s perfect streak stalled on David Peralta’s one-out walk in the fourth inning. He struck out Yandy Díaz on three pitches and retired Brandon Lowe on a slow bouncer, with a safe call overturned upon review – among the handful of disputes tonight.

Mateo darted in front of Odor to field the ball and flipped it with his glove to Ryan Mountcastle for the delayed out.

A second double for Mateo leading off the fifth was followed by Mullins’ bunt single and Rutschman’s sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.

Anthony Santander led off the sixth with a double and appeared to score after Kluber fielded Terrin Vavra’s bunt and threw past first base. However, the rookie was called out for interference and Santander returned to second base.

Didn’t matter. Austin Hays walked, Odor singled to score Santander, Urías lifted a sacrifice fly to left field and Mateo singled up the middle for a 6-0 lead. Kluber didn’t make it out of the inning.

He was stuck with another run when Mullins singled off former Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong to score Mateo, who had advanced to second base on the throw home. One of the times that the Orioles took an extra base on Tampa Bay’s outfield.

Odor had an RBI single in the seventh that increased the lead to 8-2.

Meanwhile, Voth just kept recording outs and looking nothing like the pitcher who racked up the 10.13 ERA and 2.143 WHIP in 19 appearances with the Nationals. His pitch count stood at 59 through the fifth, after Christian Bethancourt reached with two outs on Urías’ throwing error and Taylor Walls flied to the left field track.

Siri’s high chopper in the sixth cleared Urías’ head, and Mateo had no play after making the backhand stop on the edge of the turf. Arozarena hit his fifth home run against the Orioles this season and 14th in 35 career games.

Díaz singled for the third hit off Voth, and Keegan Akin stranded him.

"Austin Voth was fantastic," Hyde said, "and that was great to see. We're going to need him down the stretch. For him to go five innings and no hits, and getting into the sixth ... We've just got to get over that sixth inning barrier a little bit with some of these guys, but really happy with how we played tonight."

Voth's curveball was a dominant pitch, the Rays struggling to get a piece of it.

"It was probably part of the reason why I had success," he said. "When my curveball's on, I'm just going to continue throwing it until I get hit, and that's kind of what happened in the sixth inning. But for five innings it was great for me."

"He was able to locate his fastball effectively, land his curveball and move his cutter around when he needed to," Rutschman said. "Had a really good mix going."

The Orioles didn't arrive to their hotels until early this morning after flying in from Boston, but they weren't searching for excuses, just more hits.

"The way they came ready to play today shows how professional they are," Hyde said. "It's a fun group to be around."

"We understand it's a very important series," Mateo said via interpreter Brandon Quinones, "but regardless of who the opponent it, whoever we're going up against, we're going to give 100 percent maximum effort and put our best foot forward."

Brett Phillips, who entered the game in right field in the sixth inning, must bring out the lineup card again on Saturday because the Orioles won. He was the sentimental choice today in his homecoming, after the Tampa Bay media swarmed him during a pregame interview.

The Rays played a tribute video after the second inning and Phillips received a curtain call, the usual huge smile on his face as he waved his cap and patted his chest. Reliever Joey Krehbiel, a childhood friend, moved behind Phillips and waved, as well. Trying to grab some of the attention.

Krehbiel surrendered a run in the seventh. He should try hitting the C-ring.

Infielder Yu Chang pitched for the Rays in the ninth and, floating baseballs to the plate, allowed one run and three of the Orioles' season-high 19 hits. Urías had a sacrifice fly.

Mateo's career-high fifth hit was a single off one of those soft tosses, saying afterward that it was "definitely a little weird and uncomfortable hitting off a position player."

"I'm very satisfied with that performance," Mateo said. "It shows that my hard work is paying off. To go out there and do that, I feel really good about it and want to come back and do it all over again."

Next up is Hall's major league debut, with the corresponding roster move to be announced Saturday morning.

"It's awesome," Rutschman said. "I'm just excited to see the look on his face when he's experiencing everything for the first time. I'm really excited to see him. Our group chat has been going off with him, so it's been fun."

Down on the farm, Mike Baumann lasted only two-thirds of an inning in his start for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing four runs and four hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He threw 32 pitches.

Connor Norby collected four hits for Double-A Bowie. Colton Cowser walked four times.

High-A Aberdeen’s Heston Kjerstad tripled, walked twice and drove in two runs. Billy Cook hit his 11th home run.

Single-A Delmarva’s Juan De Los Santos and Yaqui Rivera combined on a one-hit shutout. Rivera tossed five hitless innings in relief, with no walks and six strikeouts.

Shortstop Jackson Holliday went 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored in the Florida Complex League. He was scheduled to play seven innings.

Right fielder Jud Fabian went 2-for-3 with two walks.

More on DL Hall's promotion to the Orioles
O's game blog: Hall gets the call as a big series ...

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