ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The Orioles' 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays was important in many ways. As a team built to win by outslugging opponents, the Orioles haven't been victorious in many low-scoring games.
In fact, the Orioles' win Saturday was just their third this season in 18 games when scoring two runs of fewer.
Rays left-hander Matt Moore nearly pitched as well as Orioles ace Chris Tillman, but J.J. Hardy's two-run homer off Moore was the difference.
"Not very often a two-run homer stands up, but it did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles have won six of their past seven, and those wins haven't been slugfests. All six were decided by two runs or less, and they're averaging 3.8 runs in those wins.
Keep in mind that four of those wins were against two last-place teams — the Rays and the Los Angeles Angels — but the Orioles are shedding their reputation as a team that has to pile up runs to win.
After Tillman threw seven innings of one-run ball, Showalter had the luxury of bringing in All-Star relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, while clinging to a one-run lead.
"That's usually a product of the bullpen a lot of times," Showalter said. "It was tempting to let Chris go back out there but [Logan] Forsythe and [Evan] Longoria have had some success against him the fourth time around the order. Chris had done his job. Plus, we had two good options. Brad and Zach made it a lot easier."
Excitement building for Bundy's first start
There will be a lot of anticipation for Dylan Bundy's first major league start Sunday as the Orioles go for the three-game sweep in St. Petersburg.
"Kind of funny," Showalter said. "The [next day's] starter leaves for the day game after the fifth inning. [Pitching coach Dave Wallace] makes them say, 'Hey, I'm leaving.' He was real sheepish about it. He's been asking, should I go to the bullpen or the dugout? He's been in the dugout the past two days."
"I think we're all, I wouldn't say anxiously or whatever, just looking forward to [it]," Showalter said. "You think about all the trials Dylan has fought his way through to get back to this opportunity tomorrow. So, regardless of what happens, it's got a lot of good things about it."
How deep Bundy will go Sunday? He hasn't thrown more than three innings or 57 pitches in an outing this year. But Tillman's deep start helped preserve the bullpen for Sunday, which is especially important since the Orioles might start a long reliever such as Vance Worley or Odrisamer Despaigne in Tuesday's game in New York against the Yankees.
"Whether Dylan is pitching tomorrow or not, it's the big leagues. You got to try to win every day," Showalter said. "Regardless of how it looks, the ramifications, it doesn't always end up that way."