The Orioles had to overcome a flailing offense, outlast a strong pitching performance and survive a home run that defied the laws of gravity, but some way, somehow they won again to keep their faint playoff hopes flickering.
The Orioles needed a four-run, two-out rally in the top of the eighth to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3 Thursday night before an announced 9,617 in the bizarre funhouse that is Tropicana Field.
It was the seventh victory in nine games for the Orioles (72-74), who remain in third place in the American League East and are still theoretically alive for the second wild-card spot -- 4 ½ games behind the Houston Astros with 16 games to play.
“Spirits are great. We are competitive guys, we love to win,” said reliever Darren O’Day, who picked up his third save of the season filling in for closer Zach Britton. “That’s what we are here for. To be able to do that, come from behind, that was big.”
It didn’t look good for seven innings, as the Orioles failed to score against lefty Matt Moore, who turned in his best outing in two years.
But in the eighth, with the Rays (70-76) leading 3-0, reliever Alex Colome imploded after retiring two of his first three batters. Throwing 33 pitches and facing nine Orioles in the eighth, Colome (6-5) gave up a pinch-hit RBI single to Steve Clevenger and another RBI single to Manny Machado to make it 3-2.
Colome ended up loading the bases by intentionally walking Chris Davis -- after Colome’s second wild pitch of the inning moved the runners to second and third.
That brought Adam Jones to the plate. And he made the walk backfire by hitting Colome’s first pitch to right for a two-run single that gave the Orioles the lead.
“Go up to the plate and get yourself a pitch to hit. Somebody's going to succeed, one of the two [hitter or pitcher],” Jones said. “Good thing it was me today."
In an eye blink, the Orioles went from a head-scratching defeat to an uplifting victory, thanks to some timely hitting and a stout bullpen that didn’t allow a run in 3 1/3 innings.
Manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t say that this win meant more than any other, but he did concede that with the club fighting for every victory it certainly has some importance.
“Obviously mathematically it is. Opportunities are the games you play, two, three hours, four hours. That’s your opportunity and you don’t have 100 more,” Showalter said. “You have X number left. Our guys are aware of what each game means.”
Right-hander Chaz Roe (4-2) pitched a perfect 1 1/3 innings and then turned the game over to Brad Brach and the sidearmer O’Day, who had to face two left-handers and a switch-hitter.
“Darren gave us something at a time of need,” Showalter said. “That’s pretty impressive for a guy that throws down under."
It’s normally the perfect spot for Britton, who was also off Wednesday after pitching three consecutive days. Showalter wouldn’t go into specifics, but said he believed Britton needed more rest.
“We felt like he needed another day. Us scoring four runs was not going to change that even though there is a temptation there,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what tomorrow brings. … It’s just at what point [are we] putting him in harm’s way? I felt like it was tonight. Hopefully, not tomorrow.”
It was an improbable comeback in a game that featured an even more improbable home run -- Tropicana Field fashion.
Orioles outfielder Dariel Alvarez backpedaled to the wall, stopped, looked up with his glove held high and stopped.
The ball never came down -- it hit the C-Ring catwalk and stayed above the playing field, the fifth time in Tropicana Field that has happened. Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was the last hitter to make a ball disappear in this dome. He did it exactly seven years earlier, on Sept. 17, 2008.
Jaso was credited with his fourth homer of the season to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t even see what happened. I don’t think Dariel did, either,” Tillman said. “I was a little confused. This ballpark plays like that. It’s weird, really weird.”
Tillman allowed just Jaso’s homer until the sixth, when he retired the first two batters before allowing a double to James Loney and walked Steven Souza Jr.
Catcher Matt Wieters attempted to throw out Souza napping at first, but the ball hit Souza and bounced away allowing Loney to get to third on the error. Tim Beckham followed with a comebacker that nicked off Tillman’s glove, going for an infield RBI single.
“I feel like it’s been that way for a while now. I honestly do,” said Tillman, who allowed five hits and three walks. “They hit some balls hard that we made some good plays on, and also some ones that weren’t hit so hard, but didn’t go your way. That’s the story of this game.”
Reliever Brian Matusz entered to face the left-handed-hitting Kevin Kiermaier, who tapped a chopper to first. Steve Pearce fielded it, but couldn’t tag out a diving Kiermaier. Souza dashed home ahead of Pearce’s throw for the Rays’ third run.
Moore made that lead stand. Making his ninth start of the season following elbow (Tommy John) surgery in April 2014, he entered Thursday night with an 8.42 ERA. He was coming off a performance in which he allowed six runs and four homers. He hadn’t pitched more than five innings in nine straight outings.
Moore struck out four of the first five batters he faced -- he hadn’t fanned more than four in a game all year. The lefty didn’t allow a hit until Nolan Reimold’s double to start the fourth inning. He then retired 12 of his next 13, giving up only a bloop single to Jonathan Schoop.
“I said to our guys before the series that when you’ve got a guy that’s been as good as [Moore] has in his career and he is a year or two removed from Tommy John, at some point the command and the feel and everything is going to start coming back,” Showalter said. “So tonight was a good example.”
Moore allowed just two hits and struck out nine while walking none in seven innings, but was lifted after throwing 93 pitches. Colome entered and, suddenly, the Orioles remain alive in the playoff hunt -- at least for a little while longer.