Through his first five batters Friday night, Orioles right-hander Yovani Gallardo looked like he might not get out of the first inning against a light-hitting Tampa Bay Rays lineup.
That Gallardo – making his second start since coming off the disabled list after a bout with shoulder tendinitis – was able to last 5 1/3 innings in the Orioles' 6-3 win over Tampa Bay was a victory in more ways than one. The veteran was not only able to keep his team in the game in time for a four-run sixth that ended up being the decisive frame, but he also prevented the team's bullpen from having to account for more than 3 2/3 innings.
The latter was important because the Orioles opened a stretch of four games in three days – they play a split-admission doubleheader against the Rays on Saturday. So a short Gallardo start would have taxed the Orioles bullpen going into a day when pitchers would have to account for 18 innings.
Four pitches into Friday's game, Gallardo already trailed 2-0 following Logan Forsythe's leadoff double and Corey Dickerson's first-pitch two-run homer. Two batters later, after Evan Longoria's double and an RBI single by Logan Morrison, he was behind 3-0.
And this was against a Rays team that entered the night tied for last place in the American League in runs scored. Tampa Bay averaged four runs per game, and had three runs just four batters into the game.
But with two on and no outs, Gallardo's escape began when his induced a 6-4-3 double-play ball from Desmond Jennings.
"Even though we're all adding a player tomorrow, one of the biggest plays of the game was the double-play ball that he got to kind of set up getting out of [the first]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That had the look of an early departure."
After issuing a two-out walk to put runners at the corners, Gallardo escaped the first inning with a strikeout of Taylor Motter.
Gallardo allowed three more hits, but faced the minimum number of hitters through the rest of his outing. Dickerson's two-out hit to right field in the second inning was erased when he was thrown out at second. Motter was caught attempting to steal second after a two-out single in the fourth. And after Hank Conger hit a leadoff single in the fifth, he was doubled off first when Chris Davis snagged Forsythe's line drive.
"You're one pitch away," Gallardo said. "I threw a good curveball and got a double play. The next thing you know, I was able to limit them to three runs. It could have been a lot worse. The job of the starting pitcher is go out there in the first or second inning, you've got to put up zeroes. Put up zeroes, and give the guys a chance to swing the bats."