ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The Orioles were unable to pull off their first three-game road sweep of the season, falling 7-6 to the Tampa Bay Rays in Wednesday afternoon's series finale at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles held a lead three different times, but failed to hold it each time. They lost it for a final time when reliever Mychal Givens yielded a two-out RBI double to Corey Dickerson in the seventh inning to snap a 6-6 tie.
After entering the day just one game back of first in the American League East, the Orioles failed to continue to make up ground on the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. During Thursday's day off, the Orioles (76-63) will head to Detroit – the Tigers entered Wednesday just one game behind them for the second AL wild card – for three games before ending their nine-game road trip in Boston.
"It was challenging coming in here, the last three games," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They were playing good baseball, [and you're] playing in a venue you've really got to be ready to go. We knew we were going to face good starting pitching and our guys answered it. Now we go into another hostile place.
"I tell our guys to stay focused on how much fun it is to be playing these type of games. Our guys aren't dreading it all. They are looking forward to being in that arena, to being on that stage because they've earned the right to be there. Lot of clubs would love to change places with us."
Givens was one strike away from tossing a scoreless seventh before allowing Dickerson's eventual game-winning hit. Givens had struck out two of the three batters he faced, but also allowed a single to Mikie Mahtook, who circled the bases when Dickerson lifted a ball into the left-center-field gap just out of the reach of center fielder Adam Jones.
Givens (8-2) has allowed seven runs in eight innings over his past eight appearances, posting a 7.88 ERA.
After pulling away in the first two games of the series with the help of big innings, the Orioles let the Rays (59-79) hang around but also didn't get their third straight strong starting pitching performance. Rookie Dylan Bundy failed to make it out of the fourth inning for his shortest outing in 10 starts.
Bundy's shortest two starts of his brief career have come at Tropicana Field against the Rays. Bundy allowed five runs over 3 2/3 innings Wednesday, his shortest start since he went just 3 1/3 in his first major league start on July 17 at the Rays.
After Bundy left, the Orioles regained the lead in the fifth on newcomer Drew Stubbs' run-scoring single. But Dickerson's two-out RBI single off reliever Oliver Drake in the bottom of the inning tied the game again, this time at 6.
The Orioles had just one hit in the final four innings and had just one man in scoring position over that span.
Rays left-hander Drew Smyly had his shortest start of the season, as the Orioles chased him from the game after 3 2/3 innings. Smyly allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks.
Smyly was hurt by two wild pitches in the second inning, including one that put two runners in scoring position before J.J. Hardy's two-run double with one out. Another run scored on a passed ball with Smyly on the mound in the third.
Trailing by one run, the Orioles put the tying run in scoring position with one out in the eighth – Stubbs drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt – but Jones and Michael Bourn struck out to squash the threat.
"We scored some runs off some guys, but when you score six runs, you'd like to have a little better result," Showalter said.
Bourn and Stubbs make good impression
Late-August trade acquisitions Bourn and Stubbs made their first starts with the Orioles on Wednesday and both contributed offensively.
Bourn, who entered the day 4-for-9 in his career off Smyly, hit a solo homer off him to open the third, tying the game at 3. It was Bourn's first home run off a left-hander since Aug. 17, 2013 for the Cleveland Indians against the Oakland Athletics.
"It was good," Bourn said. "I'd rather have it in a winning cause. That's always my main focus. I was able to catch one today, but especially when you're in a pennant race, I'd rather win. That's just how it goes. I'm thankful for the home run, but I wanted to get that victory also."
Stubbs reached base three times – he had two singles and a walk -- and had a two-out RBI single off Rays reliever Ryan Garton in the fifth to give the Orioles a 6-5 lead.
"We knew that Bourn had a little luck off Smyly and I wanted to get him out there," Showalter said. "Drew, it helps us as we go down the road what we can expect from them. We are also in a time of need of some guys who are banged up."