ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The Orioles used a three-run ninth inning and some welcome shutdown relief pitching to score an 8-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday at Tropicana Field, earning their first road series win since mid-April at Cincinnati and pulling within a game of .500 at 37-38.
"This was a really nice win for us," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who had a team-high three hits to raise his batting average to .270. "Come from behind. Out to an early lead, couldn't hold it and came back and really fought. A good rubber match. … I thought the bullpen had a really nice game today, and we got some clutch hits. It's really good. Really good."
The rally began with a leadoff single by Joseph, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Craig Gentry. The Rays walked pinch hitter Seth Smith intentionally to get to left fielder Joey Rickard, whose line drive into the left-field corner one-hopped the wall for a double. The Rays walked third baseman Manny Machado intentionally to load the bases before closer Álex Colomé hit second baseman Jonathan Schoop on the hand to force in a second run.
The Orioles' third run of the inning came on a sacrifice fly by center fielder Adam Jones.
Before that, rookie first baseman Trey Mancini and Schoop had solo homers in the sixth and eighth innings, respectively, to pull the Orioles back even.
Joseph, Gentry or shortstop Paul Janish aren't everyday players, and all have a better defensive reputation than an offensive one. But each made a difference Sunday in helping the Orioles produce runs.
Joseph and Gentry scored on a single by Janish in the second inning to put the Orioles up 2-0 early, and after the Rays pulled back to within one in the bottom half of that inning, Joseph homered to left field in the fourth to make the score 3-1.
Joseph later scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning after singling to open the inning.
Manager Buck Showalter was also effusive in his praise for the defense in the corner outfield spots by Rickard and Gentry, who got to balls that some of the other outfielders wouldn't have been able to and stole hits from the Rays all game.
Though he remained in good shape for the first few innings, starting pitcher Chris Tillman had difficulty preventing base runners and it came back to bite him again Sunday.
The Rays' first run came in the second inning, but by the time that inning was over, Tillman had already allowed six men to reach. He struck out the side in the third inning but made matters worse on himself in the fourth. Shortstop Daniel Robertson singled with one out, then advanced to third when Tillman threw away a pickoff attempt and was charged with an error. Robertson scored on a sacrifice fly to pull the Rays back within a run before Tillman got in trouble quickly in the fifth.
After center fielder Mallex Smith and left fielder Corey Dickerson singled, third baseman Evan Longoria homered to put the Rays up 5-3. One batter later, Tillman was done, having allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks. His ERA remains 8.39.
"He's getting back to form," Joseph said. "Sometimes it takes some time after an injury like that to really come back to form. The big thing is, didn't get out of hand. Kept us in the game. Like we see unfortunately quite often, those types of games and innings can really get out of hand. He was able to kind of shut it down, and that's probably the reason we won the game."
With his bullpen rested and a day off Monday, Showalter was aggressive with his bullpen deployment Sunday.
After Stefan Crichton got out of the fifth inning and allowed a single to lead off the sixth, Showalter got scoreless innings from Richard Bleier and Darren O'Day before bringing closer Brad Brach into a tie game in the eighth inning.
"It's a byproduct of the starting pitching and Dylan [Bundy's seven-inning] outing yesterday," Showalter said. "We had people available. We didn't have to stretch everybody out. I had Mychal [Givens] if I needed, if Brad got stretched out. … Brad was going to pitch regardless.
"It all revolves around the starting pitching yesterday. It allows us to do that, especially with the off day."