There’s just something about Joey Rickard and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rickard paced the Orioles to a 6-5, 11-inning victory against his former organization Thursday night at Tropicana Field as Baltimore salvaged the finale of the three-game series. His 11th-inning double scored Chris Davis, who singled with two outs after entering in the eighth as a defensive replacement.
“Any coach is talking about staying aggressive in your zone,” Rickard said. “When you get a pitch to hit, don’t miss it. They have a good staff over there, so there’s not many and you have to be ready.”
Rickard, an outfielder the Orioles selected from Tampa Bay in the 2015 Rule 5 draft, has a career .311/.336/.566 hitting line in 36 career games against the Rays, who took him in the ninth round of the 2012 draft.
He reached base five times Thursday, once more than he had in his previous 32 plate appearances entering the game. An infield single in the second inning ended an 0-for-15 skid for Rickard, who dived headfirst into the bag to beat Rays opener Hunter Wood in a footrace.
He beat out another ground ball to second base in the third with runners on the corners and two outs, producing an RBI for the first time since March 31, and walked in the fifth.
Rickard led off the seventh with a triple high off the right-field wall, narrowly missing what would have been his seventh home run against the Rays. His most against any other organization is three.
Rickard came home on a hard single by Richie Martin. Martin, who attended the University of Florida and Bloomingdale High School in nearby Valrico, had about 20 friends and family members in attendance as he delivered his first career RBI, but he tried to turn Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier’s wild throw home into a two-base error and was caught in a rundown between second and third.
Rickard wasn’t the only Oriole with a strong showing at the plate. Trey Mancini reached base four times, with his third-inning double giving him 13 extra-base hits, the second most in the American League. The man batting behind Mancini, Dwight Smith Jr., climbed up a league leaderboard, as well. He followed Mancini’s double with a single off Rays left-hander Jalen Beeks for his ninth hit off a lefty; that ranks first in the AL for a left-handed batter. He added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Catcher Pedro Severino followed a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play in the bottom of the third with his first home run as an Oriole in the top of the fourth. The ball traveled a projected 426 feet, the third longest by a Baltimore batter this season.
Garcia’s blast ties game
For the second time in the series, Avisaíl García crushed a home run to dead center. The latest came in Thursday’s ninth inning, a projected 447-foot shot into Tropicana Field’s catwalk against Mychal Givens to tie the game. The ball stayed in the catwalk, the sixth in the domed stadium’s history to do so.
Givens was pursuing what would’ve been the Orioles’ first five-out save in a one-run game since Zack Britton did so June 14, 2016. Givens entered after Mike Zunino brought the Rays within a run with a two-run double off Evan Phillips in the eighth and retired the next two batters to end the inning, pumping his fist after Daniel Robertson’s drive to right landed in Rickard’s glove.
Willy Adames struck out to start the ninth, but García sent a full-count, 96 mph fastball up high above the center-field scoreboard to tie the game at 5, triumphantly tossing his bat toward the Rays dugout.
Tommy Pham followed with a single, his fourth hit of the game, and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Givens caught him leaving early toward third for the second out before striking out Ji-Man Choi.
García’s homer left right-hander Andrew Cashner, who limited the Rays to two runs in five innings and struck out more batters (six) than he walked (one) for the first time this season, with a no-decision.
Left-hander John Means, moved to the bullpen in preparation for Alex Cobb’s return to the rotation Friday, pitched both extra innings for Baltimore, striking out the side in the 10th as well as García in the 11th with the tying run on first to end the game.
The other hot corner
Renato Núñez, who has spent most of his time playing the field in the major leagues at third base, learned Thursday that first base presents its own set of challenges.
With Davis still battling an illness, Núñez drew his second career start at first, the other coming Wednesday. Austin Meadows led off the bottom of the first with a double off the wall, and Pham drove him in with a 108.7 mph single off Núñez’s glove.
Zunino reached to start the second on an error by Núñez, who couldn’t corral a 103.2 mph grounder right at him. Another hot shot off Pham’s bat, this one at 101.8 mph, went off Núñez’s glove, but Cashner ended the threat, and his outing, with a full-count strikeout of Choi.
To Núñez’s credit, he kept hitting. The Orioles’ designated hitter in 16 of their first 18 games, Núñez got them got the board with an RBI single in the second.
Davis stayed ready, though, entering as a defensive replacement in the eighth and delivering a two-strike single to jumpstart the 11th-inning rally. It was Davis’ fifth hit in his previous 13 at-bats.
“He sparked us obviously,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “CD was ready to play. I went to him about the fourth or fifth and talked to him about maybe some late-inning stuff that could possibly happen and he was ready to go. He’s a pro.”