By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:23 PM EDT, August 5, 2012
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.
The Orioles’ fortunes changed dramatically over the course of 24 hours this weekend in Tampa Bay.
On Friday night, the visiting clubhouse of Tropicana Field was quiet — the air full of frustration — after the Orioles suffered their eighth shutout loss of the season in a game in which they allowed just two runs.
But by Sunday evening, the Orioles headed back to Baltimore celebrating day-after-night domination of the division-rival Rays, taking two of three at the Trop to cap a successful six-game road trip against the American League East with yet another dramatic extra-inning Orioles victory.
Making his first start at catcher since July 28, backup catcher Taylor Teagarden’s third hit as an Oriole was one of the club’s most important of the year, the latest in a growing list of late-inning heroics for the can’t-quit O’s.
Teagarden laced a 10th-inning, two-out double into the left center-field gap off Rays reliever Joel Peralta to give the Orioles a 1-0 shutout win over the Rays in front of an announced crowd of 29,530 at Tropicana Field.
The win was the Orioles’ 11th consecutive extra-inning victory and gave the O’s sole possession of second place in the AL East, one game ahead of the Rays. The Orioles are 21-6 in one-run games.
The Orioles have played 36 extra innings this season and have outscored their opponents 24-5 in extra frames. Their 11 extra-inning wins are the most in the majors this season.
“As long as you can hang around, anything can happen,” Teagarden said. “[When] you get a two-out double out of your nine-hole hitter, you know you can win games. You’ve got to have everyone contribute and kind of survive the game. Don’t let it slip away and bear down as the innings keep building up.”
Their 11-game extra-inning win streak is the second-longest single-season win streak for any major league team over the past 27 seasons. The Indians won 13 straight extra-inning games in 1995 on their way to the World Series. The last time the Orioles won a 1-0 game in extra innings was May 9, 2007 against the Rays on Aubrey Huff’s 10th-inning walkoff homer.
The Orioles (57-51) concluded their six-game road trip against the Yankees and Rays with a 4-2 record and two series wins. The O’s have won five of their past seven after losing five of their previous six games.
“We’re in the 50s now in games [left] to play,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “So every one like this you can get under your belt, you get a little closer to your goal.”
Orioles rookie right-hander Miguel Gonzalez went pitch for pitch with one of the best left-handers in the game in David Price, continuing a string of three straight solid pitching performances here at Tropicana Field.
Teagarden, who spent the entire first half of the season on the disabled list with a back injury, is just 3-for-28 on the season, but hit a walk-off homer against the Detroit Tigers on July 14. He was 1-for-25 since until his game-winning hit Sunday.
Teagarden battled against Peralta, fouling off three pitches and working the count full before taking an 89-mph fastball into the left center-field gap that scored Mark Reynolds, who drew a one-out walk, from first.
“He’s not the best hitter on the team, but to me he was today,” Peralta said. “He fouled off a couple good pitches and he got to 3-2 and with the guys coming up I kind of felt like I had to challenge the guy, and he got me. It cost me the game, cost us the game. I should have made better pitches than that.”
Meanwhile, Gonzalez had perhaps his best major league start, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing just two hits and striking out four. He could have gone deeper if not for issuing four walks.
“My sinker was working real well today, and my splitter as well,” Gonzalez said. “Slider was good. Teagarden did a great job back there and also getting that double in the 10th inning to win the game. Give him props for that.”
Give the Orioles pitching props as well. Orioles starting pitchers allowed just two runs in 19 2/3 innings in this weekend’s three-game series against the Rays, pitching to a 0.92 ERA.
Orioles pitchers held the Rays scoreless for the final 20 innings of the series, with Tampa Bay’s last run coming in the sixth inning of Friday’s 2-0 Orioles loss.
A day after left-hander Wei-Yin Chen tossed seven scoreless innings Saturday night, Gonzalez did the same, frustrating a Rays offense that entered the day with a .231 team batting average, second worst in the majors. This was the second time this season Orioles have recorded back-to-back shutouts — they did it on June 16-17 in Atlanta. The O’s had back-to-back shutout wins just once in the past 10 seasons.
“If I was the Orioles, I’d be really upset giving up two runs in three games and only winning two,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “They’ve got to be leaving here very upset about that.”
Price dominated the Orioles with eight shutout innings of his own, allowing just two hits with five strikeouts and three walks. In his three starts against the Orioles this season, Price has allowed just one run over 22 1/3 innings for a 0.40 ERA.
Gonzalez, who allowed a career-high seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his last start against the Rays (56-52) just 11 days ago, went seven innings for the first time since his first career start, a seven-inning, one-run, three-hit effort in Anaheim.
He said he was energized by pitching against Price.
“He’s always been a great pitcher,” Gonzalez said. “He did a great job today and I like someone that is out there and he’s aggressive, so I’m going to be aggressive, too. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep working and keep getting better.”
After allowing a B.J. Upton double on his second batter of the game, Gonzalez didn’t allow another hit until the Carlos Pena’s single to lead off the seventh inning. He did strand three runners in scoring position, two of them placed there by walks.
After Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth, Showalter went with a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup to open the ninth, inserting Troy Patton to pitch against Matt Joyce, but Joyce reached on a nubber to the left of home plate that Patton charged and threw wildly, drawing Reynolds off the bag.
But after pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez bunted Joyce over to second, Orioles right-hander Luis Ayala stranded the winning run at second. Jeff Keppinger hit a comebacker to the mound and Ayala caught Joyce in a rundown between second and third. Keppinger was able to reach second in the rundown, and Pena was intentionally walked, but Ayala needed just three pitches — low 90s fastballs — to strike out Ryan Roberts swinging.
The Orioles bullpen tossed three scoreless innings, capped by Jim Johnson’s perfect 10th inning for his 32nd save of the season.
“During the season, we’ve won a lot of games in extra innings, so I think we have a great bullpen and a great team,” Ayala said. “The difference between a lot of baseball [teams] is who makes great plays in tough situations. We’re trying to do our best.”
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