Chris Davis acknowledged that the Orioles hitters might have been pressing over the past three weeks, trying to do too much with one swing as they collectively struggled to score runs. But Davis provided the Orioles with more offense with one swing Saturday night than they had at any point during their four-game losing streak.
The Orioles needed just one clutch hit to propel them to a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, ending their four-game skid in front of an announced 24,327 at Tropicana Field.
Davis gave the Orioles all the offense they'd need on his fifth career grand slam in the third inning. Starting in the No. 2 spot of the batting order for the fourth time in his career, Davis took a full-count 93-mph fastball from Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez into the right-field seats.
"I think it gives you a little bit of breathing room and allows the pitching staff and the defense to go out and relax a little bit," Davis said. "I think we did a great job tonight of having good at-bats, making them work and taking advantage of opportunities to score."
The Orioles have won just six times in their past 21 games and have scored more than four runs just twice in their past 14 games.
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez held the Rays scoreless for the first seven innings before allowing a solo homer to Curt Casali in the eighth. Overall, Gonzalez held Tampa Bay to one run in 7 2/3 innings, his longest start since going eight innings May 29.
"I think there were situations where we probably pressed a little bit," Davis said. "I think it's natural when you're scuffling to try to score runs to try to go out there and do too much. I thought it was a great inning for us to put together some base hits and come through with a big hit, and for Miggy to shut them down was big."
Davis' blast provided a lead the Orioles hadn't had often over the past week. It was the team's second lead since Sunday. They took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning Friday before losing, 3-1, to the Rays for their first loss in 40 games when taking a lead into the eighth.
Gonzalez (9-6), who has won three of his past four decisions, allowed five hits, struck out five and walked none. His 107 pitches were one shy of his season high and it marked just the third time he has gone over the 100-pitch mark in 18 starts this season.
"I think there's times that you are going to have your ups and downs and you just have to go out there and minimize it," Gonzalez said. "We've pitched well here, attacking guys and staying ahead, that's what helped me get to the eighth inning. … My curveball was really good today and my slider. … It's important to throw in to hitters early in the game and that's what really changed the game for us."
Gonzalez improved to 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA in eight career starts at Tropicana Field. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings at the Trop, he has the fourth-best ERA there, trailing Mariano Rivera (1.18), Jarrod Washburn (1.89) and Clay Buchholz (1.91).
In four starts against Tampa Bay this season, Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA, allowing three runs in 29 innings.
"Same as I've been telling you all every game for a while now, we've got to create some margin of errors for our pitchers," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Some guys don't perform as well with that, but our guys know I think right now that runs are at a premium for us offensively until we get it going. To go out there and throw a zero after that four-spot, which I thought was big, then Miguel really got in step. I thought in the first couple of innings, he was up with some pitches, and we were able to catch it."
Ramirez (8-4) had not allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings against the Orioles this season until the third inning, when singles by J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop and David Lough loaded the bases for Davis.
"It was pretty big, especially with the way Miguel's been throwing the ball against these guys," Davis said. "Everybody that inning did a great job of not trying to do too much, just taking what Ramirez gave them. And obviously with a full count and bases loaded, I know he's not going to walk me, he's not trying to walk me, so I just look for a pitch over the plate and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Davis' grand slam was his 22nd homer of the season, giving him sole possession of the team lead. All five of Davis' career grand slams have come with the Orioles, most recently on Aug. 29, 2014 against Minnesota Twins right-hander Trevor May.
It was the Orioles' third grand slam of the season, and first since Steve Pearce hit one May 21 off Seattle Mariners lefty J.A. Happ.
With his grand slam, Davis has 29 RBIs in 30 career games at Tropicana Field, his most in any opposing ballpark.
Lough rounded the bases for an insurance run in the eighth, hitting a ball down the right-field line for a triple, then scoring on second baseman Logan Forsythe's errant relay throw to third.
"I was pretty gassed coming around second, I'm not going to lie," Lough said. "I'm not used to running around the bases like that, but it was good. Once I saw the ball get away from third and I was able to score, it was a good feeling."
Lough, making his second start at leadoff this season and his first since April 23, was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
"David has that ability," Showalter said. "I think when he saw the lineup, he was looking forward to giving us something that we were in need of. We've hit Chris second two or three times. I was hoping David would get on and get a few more fastballs, too."
Orioles right-hander Chaz Roe relieved Gonzalez and recorded the final four outs of the game.