On a night of big offense, a defensive play may have saved the game

On a night in which the Orioles hit four homers, scored eight runs and had 14 hits, a defensive play early in the game should not be overlooked.

Chris Tillman and the Orioles were trailing 4-0 in the third inning and Tampa Bay had the bases loaded with two outs. Jaff Decker lined a shot to right-center. Center fielder Adam Jones laid out for the diving catch. It probably saved three runs and a 7-0 deficit. Was it a coincidence that the Orioles would then score in their next six at-bats and rally to beat Tampa Bay 8-6 tonight?

They swept a day-night doubleheader and moved a season-high 14 games over .500 at 44-30.

Right fielder Joey Rickard had a great view of that play.

“It looked like it would be impossible to get there,” Rickard said. “That is why he is who he is. You never know what to expect. Almost seems kind of routine for him these days, but really it was amazing. A game changer, that is for sure.”

Adam-Jones-bubble-profile.jpgTillman was asked what he said to Jones in the dugout after the catch.

“I told him thanks for picking me up. It was an outstanding catch,” Tillman said. “That’s a game-changer right there. It saved two - maybe three - runs. It kept us in the game and gave us some momentum there.”

Then the offense went to work. The Orioles hit four homers, two by Matt Wieters, who produced his fifth career multi-homer game. Over the last seven games, the Orioles have scored 47 runs. The offense was relentless tonight.

“It was huge,” Rickard said. “We take a lot of pride in never giving up. We know how good we are and what we are capable of and it’s not too often are we out of ballgames.”

Wieters went 3-for-4 and is batting .278. He hit a two-run blast onto Eutaw Street in the fourth. It was his second career Eutaw Street homer, the first coming June 29, 2012. The O’s have hit three there this year, with Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty also connecting.

“It always feels good to hit the barrel,” Wieters said. “That is what I’m focusing on. Hit the barrel as many times as possible, and I was able to get a couple of pitches up and get them to go out. I’ll take it (the Eutaw Street homer). I don’t have too many. So I’ll take each one I can get.”

Over his past seven games, Wieters is 9-for-20 (.450) with three homers and nine RBIs.

Wieters was behind the plate for Tillman’s struggles tonight as the right-hander gave up six runs and 10 hits - both matching season highs - over five innings. Tillman did avoid his second loss.

“Yeah, but that is what Tillman does,” Wieters said. “He goes out there and still competes, even when everyone sees he doesn’t have his best command or his best stuff. He is just as happy that we won as much as if he had thrown great. That is the kind of teammate he is and why we love having him on the mound.”

Tillman gave up a run in the first, one in the second and two each in the third and fifth innings. He just could not find consistency tonight. He talked about his outing and also the O’s offense coming back to get the sweep.

“Just poor execution I think,” he said. “Got ahead of a lot of guys and gave up three or four 0-2 hits. That can’t happen. When you get ahead, you have to put them away or get an out. Like to be better when ahead and execute pitches.

“But our offense was impressive tonight. That was pretty big time. (Jake) Odorizzi is a pretty darn good pitcher. To score the runs we did off him was impressive. “It’s big (to sweep). It is really hard to sweep a doubleheader. (Kevin) Gausman threw the heck out of the ball in the first game and the offense and defense picked us up in the second game. It was a good day.”

Jonathan Schoop extended his hitting streak to eight games. He is batting .455 (15-for-33) during that stretch and has hit safely in 20 of 24 games in June, batting .333. Manny Machado is batting .432 (19-for-44) his past 10 games with three homers and five RBIs.

The Orioles did not homer in the opener and hit four homers in Game 2. They have hit 30 homers their past 15 games and 48 in the last 23 games. The Orioles are now 30-13 (.698) at home.

On Sunday, the Orioles can record their first-ever four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays.

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