The Orioles' 5-4, 11-inning walk-off win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night was unusual in many ways, from the beginning – when right fielder Seth Smith circled the bases on his bloop single-turned-second-inning-three-ring-circus play – to the end, when Smith drew a four-pitch bases-loaded walk to win the game in anticlimactic fashion.
The Orioles mustered little offense for most of the night, going scoreless for eight straight innings before rallying to score two runs in the bottom of the 11th on three walks, two singles and a sacrifice fly.
No, it didn't have the excitement of most walk-off wins – and it was one of the Orioles' uglier games of the season – but Smith's four-pitch walk from reliever Danny Farquhar with two outs and the bases full showed the Orioles resilience on a night when they struggled to muster any offense for most of the game.
"We scored the three [going into the 11th] and what did we have, 12, 13, 14 hits?" Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't know how many we ended up with. There was some offense there. I'm hoping as we get into the flow of the season a little bit where the weather cooperates a little bit and guys can get into a routine a little bit more. But to be where we are … very seldom are you going to be functional on all cylinders, but those are the types of games you like to win."
The Orioles tied the score in the 11th, loading the bases with one out on singles by Chris Davis and Welington Castillo and a walk to Hyun Soo Kim. Jonathan Schoop then scored the tying run on a line-drive out to center field, scoring Davis on a sacrifice fly. Ryan Flaherty then drew a walk to load the bases again for Smith.
It marked the first time a game ended with a pitcher entering the game and throwing four consecutive balls to the first hitter he faced, issueing a walk-off walk since Aug. 20, 2013, when the Red Sox's Brayan Villarreal walked the Giants' Marco Scutaro to end the game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's awesome," Smith said. "Every win is big. That's all that matters at the end of the day, at the end of the season. [To] be down in extra innings and come back and win is always good for the morale and moving forward, probably less so winning than the feeling of losing an extra-inning game at home, but still really good."
After scoring three runs in the second inning, the Orioles (14-6) recorded just three singles and placed just one runner in scoring position in innings three through 10.
The Orioles remained unbeaten in seven series this season (6-0-1) as they head to New York and Boston to continue an opening five weeks that has been dominated by division games.
Rays catcher Jesus Sucre's broken-bat RBI single with two outs in the 11th off right-hander Alec Asher tied the game. Asher (1-0) put two runners on in the 11th, walking Logan Morrison and hitting Shane Peterson with a pitch before Sucre's bat shattered as he looped a ball down the right-field line to score Morrison.
The Orioles bullpen was unable to preserve a one-run lead for starter Dylan Bundy.
The Orioles entered the top of the eighth clinging to a one-run lead, but right-hander Mychal Givens, who stranded an inherited runner in scoring position in the seventh – allowed a leadoff double to Derek Norris. Left-hander Donnie Hart then hit pinch hitter Rickie Weeks Jr. with a pitch and walked left-handed hitter Kevin Kiermaier on nine pitches.
That created a no-out, bases-loaded jam for right-hander Darren O'Day, who retired all three batters he faced, but a run scored on Brad Miller's fielder's choice groundout, a sharply hit ball on which first baseman Davis dived into the hole to keep in the infield.
Bundy recorded his fifth straight quality start to open the season, allowing just two runs – a pair of homers to shortstop Tim Beckham – over 6 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Brach Brach dodged a pair of hits while pitching scoreless ninth and 10th innings for his first multiple-inning outing of the season.
The Orioles had a rare opportunity to score the go-ahead run in the eighth inning after Manny Machado opened the inning landing on second after an infield single deep into the hole at shortstop and Beckham's ensuing wild throw into the stands.
But the Orioles came up empty. After Davis walked, struggling slugger Mark Trumbo struck out looking and Castillo hit into an inning-ending double play.
Smith scores himself on 'Little League home run'
Smith rounded the bases on his own single on an error-filled play that had to be seen to be believed. Smith's single scored two runs – including himself – in the team's three-run second inning.
With Flaherty on first base, Smith looped a single to center field that Kiermaier took on a hop and threw to third to attempt to nab Flaherty. Kiermaier's throw was wild, getting past third baseman Evan Longoria.
Rays pitcher Alex Cobb backed up the play, and after seeing Flaherty round third, he threw back to Longoria, but the throw ricocheted off Flaherty's helmet and into no-man's land in left field, enabling Flaherty to score easily.
By the time left fielder Peterson chased down the ball, Smith was rounding third and heading home, and he slid under Longoria's throw home.
"One time in the minor leagues I was on the bad end of that," Flaherty said. "It's a complete circus play."
The play – on which the Rays were charged with two throwing errors and Smith was credited with a single but no RBI – gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
"I hit the single, and then the throw came in, I was stopping at first, and then it got by, and I was stopping at second, Smith said. "The throw went to left. I was going to third, and I saw there wasn't anybody really close, and I knew I might get sent home, but at that point, everything was behind me, and he was sending me; the hard send is where you know there's probably going to be a play, and thankfully I was able to get there before the ball."
"Maybe so, maybe so," Smith said when asked whether he's ever been involved in a similar play, even in Little League. "I hope that's the last time it happens."
Flaherty taking advantage of opportunity
Playing time has been rare for Flaherty, but the Orioles utility player contributed right away Wednesday as he made his second start of the season.
Flaherty, who was in the lineup to give starting shortstop J.J. Hardy the benefit of two straight days off (The Orioles are off Thursday before opening a three-game set at Yankee Stadium on Friday night), roped an RBI single off Cobb in his first at bat of the night in the third inning.
"It's just fun to get out there and play," Flaherty said. "When you get a chance to get out there, you try to help the team win, move the chains and keep it going. … It can be tough [not playing], for sure. I think, one way to look at it is when Buck puts you in there, he probably thinks you've got a decent chance against the pitcher. You just try to do something to help the team win."
It was Flaherty's first hit in five at-bats this season and his first RBI of the year. He then scored on Smith's round-the-bases single and drew a key walk in the 11th to load the bases for Smith's walkoff walk.
"Ryan looked good tonight," Showalter said. "I thought he had some good at-bats tonight. He was seeing the ball well. Nobody was seeing as well as Beckham, I can tell you that. You could tell from the first at-bat that Ryan seemed to be … you get to know a guy. Balanced, was seeing the ball and wasn't jumping. I liked that. I really wanted to give J.J. these two days if I could."