The trade watch brought a different element tonight to the first game of a series. Whether news would break. Whether teammates would hug in the dugout.
Trey Mancini wasn’t in the lineup, getting a mental break, according to manager Brandon Hyde. Rumors intensified that Mancini and the Mets were nearing a partnership.
There were no goodbye hugs prior to the final out. The Orioles formed a handshake line on the field after defeating the Rays 5-1 at Camden Yards, returned to a clubhouse that remained intact and cranked up the music.
The bullpen tossed six scoreless innings, and a four-run fifth broke a 1-1 tie and pushed the Orioles back to .500 at 48-48. They remain a half-game behind the Red Sox for fourth place.
The Orioles have recorded back-to-back winning months for the first time since May-June 2016.
The Orioles loaded the bases against Corey Kluber in the fifth, and Ryan Mountcastle lined a two-run single into right-center field to stop an 0-for-14 skid. He had two RBIs since July 10.
Anthony Santander reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring another run, and Ji-Man Choi’s throw to second base hit Mountcastle for an error. Austin Hays’ sacrifice fly increased the lead to 5-1.
Nick Vespi returned to the Orioles today, inherited a runner from Bryan Baker with no outs in the fifth inning and struck out all three batters. He recorded two more outs in the sixth, including another strikeout.
"I think every time I go out there it's important," he said, downplaying the timing of it. "My job tonight was to get the team back in the dugout. That's all I was focused on."
Dillon Tate retired all three of his batters with a strikeout. Cionel Pérez put a runner on third base with no outs in the eighth and stranded him. Félix Bautista retired the side in the ninth.
"When everyone's hot, it's contagious," Vespi said.
"Tonight, they were so good," said Hyde. "I do enjoy managing these guys. They put six zeroes up. That's absolutely outstanding."
Austin Voth lasted only three innings, with one run on the board and 70 pitches delivered, only 39 for strikes. Brandon Lowe tied the game 1-1 with a leadoff home run in the third.
The Rays left six runners on base while Voth was in the game.
Lowe hadn’t homered since May 7, before his back injury.
"I was just going out there and trying to go as far as I could," Voth said. "I felt like I battled today. Just didn't have my best stuff. I was behind in a lot of counts and that's kind of what hurt me, but definitely found a way to get out of some of those innings."
"Give him credit for not having his best stuff and kind of grinding through those first three innings, only giving up a run, pitching with a lot of traffic out there," said Hyde, who shortened Voth tonight following the All-Star break. "And then the bullpen guys, everybody who came into the game was absolutely outstanding."
The Rays have been picked apart by injuries and the bad news flows like water, with today’s announcement that outfielder Kevin Kiermaier and catcher Mike Zunino will undergo season-ending surgeries. But the club hasn’t lost its aggression.
Voth loaded the bases with one out in the second inning, fielded Brett Phillips’ comebacker and threw home for the force. Luke Raley slid hard into the back of catcher Adley Rutschman’s legs while trying to break up a possible double play.
Rutschman was knocked to the ground, fans booed and Hyde came out of the dugout to check whether interference should have been called. Rutschman motioned that he was fine, allowing an entire franchise to exhale in unison, and play resumed without further incidents.
"I just wanted to make sure my foot was on the base and we got the first out," Rutschman said.
"I didn't really see the play. I was just focused on getting the out."
"I've seen tough collisions. For me that wasn't a tough collision," Hyde said.
"It was awkward, so when it's awkward, that definitely scares you. But once Adley popped up, I didn't think anything of it. It was a clean play, honestly. We're so used to, in this game now, of not seeing contact, that when you see a little bit of contact, everybody kind of wonders if that was a clean play or not. But it was definitely a clean play and the guy was just going hard into the corner of the plate. Those plays happen."
Said Voth: "After I threw it home, he kind of reached out and made the play, and then he kind of did like a little spin and turn. Almost like he twisted his ankle, but it wasn't as bad as it seemed. It was just a hard play. The guys was coming in and sliding, and maybe he just clipped his leg a little bit."
Raley was booed again as he came to the plate with two outs in the third inning. He exchanged pleasantries with Rutschman, no bad blood between them, and lined a doubled into left-center field.
Pérez got ahead of Raley 0-2 leading off the eighth and surrendered a double to center field. A wild pitch moved Raley to third with no outs, but Pérez struck out the next two batters and retired Francisco Mejía on a roller to the mound.
Voth’s sixth pitch of the game drew cheers from the crowd that could have flooded the aisles from the dripping sarcasm. The first five missed the strike zone, as ruled by plate umpire Jim Reynolds.
Yandy Díaz was stranded after his leadoff walk.
Raley drew a leadoff walk in the second, Taylor Walls got ahead 3-0 and a strike from Voth brought a similar response from the seats. The applause was legitimate when Walls struck out, but back-to-back singles proceeded Phillips’ low liner that Voth deflected, and scrambled for, to get the out at home.
The big inning tends to elude the Orioles, and they settled for only one run in the bottom of the second after loading the bases with no outs on singles by Santander, Hays and Ramón Urías. Rougned Odor flied to the edge of the right field warning track to score Santander, but two popups limited the damage against Kluber, who was making his fifth start against the Orioles this season.
The Orioles were more productive in the fifth; after Ryan McKenna singled, Cedric Mullins reached on a bunt single and Kluber grazed Rutschman with a pitch.
Mountcastle followed with his single and the Orioles added the all-important tack-on runs.
The bullpen protected the lead and lowered its ERA to 3.09, third-lowest in the majors.
"That was huge," Voth said. "They definitely picked up the slack today, for sure."
Jonathan Araúz, playing his first game since July 8, lined a single off the right field scoreboard with two outs in the eighth inning and was cut down trying for the double. He left the game after jamming a finger on his right hand.
"It's a little bit of a sprain, so getting checked out right now," Hyde said. "As of right now he's just day-to-day."