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ORIOLES 5, RAYS 3

Orioles escape bases-loaded jam in ninth for 5-3 win over Tampa Bay Rays

Chris Tillman pitches six innings, Steve Pearce homers in series opener at Tropicana Field

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

12:29 AM EDT, May 7, 2014

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After an opening five weeks to the season that included rain delays, irregular start times and early-morning flights, the Orioles were looking forward to playing three night games with no risk of weather delays under the roof of Tropicana Field.

They didn't account for a 19-minute eighth-inning delay when a set of lights went out along a catwalk connected to the dome's roof Tuesday night.

But when play resumed — the row of lights still out — the Orioles were finally sparked by a big hit they had lacked all night.

Second baseman Ryan Flaherty, making just his second start in 10 days, drove in the winning run with a single in a two-run eighth inning, giving the Orioles a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of an announced 11,855.

“I saw it happen in the Super Bowl, but that was the only experience I’ve had watching lights go out,” Flaherty said. “I saw a couple of their guys sitting in the outfield. Looney Tunes was on the scoreboard. It was kind of a bizarre moment.”

With the win, the Orioles (16-14) kept at least a share of first place in the American League East.

Flaherty's single came after the Orioles were just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Nick Markakis followed by beating out a potential double-play ball that scored an insurance run.

“It was nice to get up there in that situation and help the team win,” Flaherty said. “Any time you get up there with less than two outs and a guy on third base, you try to get him in.”

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman recorded just the team's 10th quality start in 30 games this season, yielding three runs and five hits over six innings plus two batters.

Tillman's start was his deepest in nearly four weeks. He had allowed 13 earned runs over 15 1/3 innings over his previous three starts.

“He looked like a guy who hadn't been sitting around for six days,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He was a lot crisper and sharper.”

Tillman entered the seventh inning having thrown 84 pitches, but he left the game with two on and no outs after a leadoff single by Wil Myers and a 10-pitch walk to David DeJesus.

"You always like to get deeper, but they put some good at-bats together, laid off some tough pitches when they were behind in the count,” Tillman said. “That's a credit to them. I had a little better fastball command tonight, and I was able to throw my off-speed pitches off that. But too many walks, too many deep counts. I'd like to have gotten deeper there."

With slugging first baseman Chris Davis on the disabled list and catcher Matt Wieters — the Orioles' best hitter of the first five weeks of the season — possibly following him there, the club's batting order isn't quite as imposing.

Even with Wieters, who is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for persistent soreness in his throwing arm, in the lineup as the team's starting designated hitter, the Orioles lineup lacked punch Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

The Orioles had plenty of opportunities to score Tuesday, but stranded 10 base runners.

They had Rays starter Chris Archer on the ropes throughout the evening, but failed to break through against the struggling right-hander.

They loaded the bases with no outs in both the fourth and fifth innings, but managed to scrape up just one run each time on a pair of sacrifice flies.

With the game tied at 2 in the fifth, they loaded the bases when Flaherty's leadoff double to right was followed by a walk to Markakis and a single by Manny Machado.

But Archer struck out Nelson Cruz in a seven-pitch at-bat. Adam Jones' sacrifice fly to center scored Flaherty, but Wieters ended the inning with a flyout to right.

After back-to-back singles by Cruz and Jones opened the fourth inning, Wieters hit a ball to second that shortstop Yunel Escobar dropped on a potential double-play attempt while moving the ball to his throwing hand for an error.

They tied the game on J.J. Hardy's sacrifice fly to left, but stranded two runners in scoring position when Steve Clevenger struck out and Steve Pearce grounded to third to end the inning.

Archer left the game after five innings and 100 pitches, allowing three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk.

“He's a really good pitcher, and he's got really good stuff,” Flaherty said. You've got to grind him, and we were able to do that and get him out of that game.”

The Rays took a quick 2-0 lead on Tillman four batters into the bottom of the first inning as Evan Longoria took an 0-2 pitch over the center field fence for a two-run homer with two outs.

Pearce got the Orioles onto the scoreboard with his first homer of the season to lead off the third inning, a towering solo shot to left on a 3-2 pitch.

Tillman escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth, inducing an inning-ending force play at second from Desmond Jennings.

With the game tied in the eighth, Wieters led off with a single and Clevenger hit a one-out single.

The row of lights went out before Pearce stepped up to the plate. Players from both teams went back to their dugouts before the game resumed.

“Have you been in the minor leagues? I've seen it a couple times — two, three times — and it lasted a lot longer than that,” Showalter said about the delay. “There's a bank behind home plate that never comes on. Everybody's waiting for those to come on, and they don't ever come on. I was just hoping it wouldn't mess up the air conditioning.”

Pearce then drew a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Flaherty's hit, which came off Rays reliever Joel Peralta.

Closer Tommy Hunter stranded the bases loaded in the ninth inning for his ninth save in 10 opportunities as the Orioles bullpen tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Tillman.

Darren O'Day (1-0) picked up the win taking over for Tillman and pitching the seventh.

eencina@baltsun.com

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