St. Petersburg, Fla. — The importance of each game in the Orioles' pivotal nine-game road trip intensifies by the day, but they can't look ahead to dates with fellow playoff contenders Detroit and Boston. They still must take care of business on a three-game trip to last-place Tampa Bay.
And in Monday's series opener against the Rays – who by taking two of three from division-leading Toronto showed their ability to muddle a playoff picture they're not in – the Orioles won a game they needed to win.
For the second straight day, the Orioles fell behind by three runs in the first inning, but this time, they rallied from behind not with the home-run ball, but a bevy of clutch two-out singles for a 7-3 victory over the Rays in front of an announced crowd of 12,256.
The Orioles' offensive strength has been their ability to launch balls into the seats, but on Monday afternoon it was their situational hitting that served as the recipe to victory.
Ubaldo Jimenez was one strike away from escaping the first inning unscathed, but he fell behind early by allowing a three-run homer to Tampa Bay first baseman Logan Morrison with two outs and a full count.
The Orioles (75-62) would then go on to score seven unanswered runs off Rays starter Matt Andriese, including five in a fifth inning that saw the Orioles bat around.
They were 4-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the fifth inning alone, getting three two-out, run-scoring singles.
Andriese almost escaped the inning. After Hyun Soo Kim opened the fifth with a double and went to third on Adam Jones' single, Andriese struck out Pedro Alvarez looking and Manny Machado swinging on a high fastball.
But first baseman Chris Davis fell behind 0-2, looking fooled by a pair of changeups, but worked the count until he found a fastball up to loop into center field to score two runs.
Mark Trumbo singled home Davis and after a Matt Wieters single, both baserunners scored on Jonathan Schoop's two-run single.
Baltimore Orioles Insider
Jimenez finds groove
Jimenez rebounded from a rocky start to pitch his first nine-inning complete game since June 1, 2011, and the first complete-game by an Orioles pitcher in more than two years (Sept. 3, 2014, by Miguel Gonzalez)
Jimenez was on the verge of an early exit, falling behind 3-0 in a 25-pitch first inning, but he became the first Orioles starter to go more than eight innings this season.
After allowing the three-run homer to Morrison, Jimenez did not allow a hit. He retired 17 straight batters and 25 of 26, the Rays' only baserunner coming on a walk to Morrison in the fourth.
Over his last four starts, the much-maligned Jimenez (6-10) has allowed just eight earned runs over 26 2/3 innings, pitching to a 2.70 ERA over that span.