Bullpen is best again (O’s win 5-3)

Left-hander Brian Matusz came within one out of registering a quality start, exiting after 5 2/3 innings with the Orioles clinging to a 4-3 lead over the Rays.

The bullpen would have to protect a slim margin, and that’s exactly what’s happened through the eighth inning.

Luis Ayala stranded two inherited runners in the sixth by striking out pinch hitter Matt Joyce, and he retired the side in order in the seventh.

Pedro Strop struck out two batters while retiring the side in order in the eighth. He also induced a harmless ground ball to short.

Jim Johnson will try to convert his 19th straight save opportunity and seal a 5-3 victory before an announced 32,862 at Camden Yards.

Bill Hall hit his first home run as an Oriole, and his first since May 14, 2011, to provide a big tack-on run, as manager Buck Showalter likes to call it. Hall’s fly ball barely cleared the out-of-town scoreboard in right.

The Orioles’ bullpen has retired all 16 batters it’s faced in this series, with 10 ground balls, four strikeouts and two fly balls.

Strop hasn’t allowed a run in his last eight appearances and 10 innings, striking out seven.

The Orioles are 21-10 in the American League East since Sept. 7, 2011. They’re three outs away from adding another victory.

Update: Johnson retired the side in order for his 11th save this season and 19th in a row dating back to last August. It’s another series win for the Orioles.

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