The Orioles’ Grapefruit League opener wasn’t much to look at through the first 8½ innings. The Orioles fell behind early and were trailing by six runs with just three outs to go in the game.
Not a good situation to be in when you’ve basically turned the game over to your minor league system, but that’s why the Orioles’ late comeback attempt was so satisfying for manager Buck Showalter.
Quick recap: DJ Stewart led off the ninth inning by lining the first pitch from Rays reliever Brandon Lawson into center field for a single. Infield prospect Ryan Mountcastle also hammered the first pitch he saw for a double to put runners at second and third. Catching prospect Chance Sisco was a little more patient, taking the second pitch he saw to the opposite field for a wind-aided three-run home run that cut the big deficit in half.
Garabez Rosa lined out to center, but Rubén Tejada and Erick Salcedo kept up the barrage with back-to-back hits that brought the potential tying run to the plate with just one out.
That’s where the rally fizzled. The Rays changed pitchers and Orioles catcher Audry Pérez struck out swinging, though not for lack of an effort to hit a game-tying home run. Joey Rickard followed with a groundout and the game was in the books.
Win or lose, Showalter said that was nice to see.
“Yeah, especially back-to-back-to-back,” Showalter said. “We had four balls hit hard they caught. Pretty good first day for the most part.”
Showalter was particularly impressed with Salcedo, who has made some pretty plays defensively along with delivering the ninth-inning hit that put the Orioles one swing away from tying the game.
“He’s a baseball player,” Showalter said. “He can really catch the ball.”