Orioles homer four times, overcome six errors in wacky 17-15 win over Tampa Bay Rays

In a marathon 17-15 win by the split-squad Orioles over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday that featured 28 hits, nine errors and seven home runs, two sets of professional baseball players spent nearly four hours balancing on the edge of fun and folly, falling often but certainly not failing to entertain.

Home runs by Rio Ruiz, Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle helped overcome a rough start for Dylan Bundy before things went off the tracks for both sides.


“I don’t know if words can really describe what just took place the last four hours,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. His counterpart, Brandon Hyde, left before things unraveled to make it to the night game in Sarasota, Fla.

A sacrifice fly by Stevie Wilkerson in which Wilkerson and DJ Stewart, who was at first base, didn’t know whether the ball was caught provided the eventual winning run and a fitting encapsulation of the depths the game descended to.

Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. wasted no time showing up at Ed Smith Stadium and talked about his reaction to the deal that sent him to the Orioles from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bundy allowed six runs on six hits — including a home run by left fielder Brandon Lowe that ended his day with two outs in the second inning — but an eight-run third inning for the Orioles reversed that deficit.

Hays helped that inning along with a two-run double down the left-field line, and Ruiz capped the third with a three-run home run.

Mountcastle's first home run of the spring was worth three runs and was crushed off the batter's eye in center field. An inning later, the fellow top prospect Hays mirrored that with his own deep home run to center field.

A bad omen

Bundy was done in by the fastball command problems that have plagued him all spring, but the 11-pitch at-bat by leadoff man Austin Meadows to start the game didn't help. Bundy thought he had Meadows rung up on a 3-2 fastball at the knees on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, but eventually had Meadows flip a fastball into short left field that the Orioles, who were shifted the other way, couldn't get to.

"First batter you face, you're trying to just throw some heaters down and away, maybe some changeups, and get a soft-contact out or a strikeout, " Bundy said. "Everything I was throwing, he was just fouling off, either early or late, topping it into the ground. I was just like, ‘Come on, dude. You need to get out already.’ But I pretty much threw everything I had — in, out, up, down — except for the curveball."

With his roster spot secure for the past two seasons, Bundy hasn't been at his best during spring training, and typically has a little more fastball than the 89-91 mph he was carrying Saturday. Still, he's been hit around a bit, allowing 15 hits and 10 runs in 6 2/3 innings. He said Saturday was "not good.”


"They were just hitting them where we weren't, but then again, changeup didn't have much depth or tail to it," Bundy said. "The changeup wasn't really effective today to left-handed hitters, and then a couple fastballs, just left over the middle of the plate again."

Mountcastle heating up

Mountcastle's three-hit day was his best of the spring, and came at a good time. The Orioles could send players back to minor league camp after Saturday's split-squad games, and with Chris Davis’ hip injury, Mountcastle has a good case to stick around.

Cedric Mullins did a little bit of everything in Friday's game against the Red Sox, except for get a hit. But he's making an impression on new manager Brandon Hyde in a lot of ways.

Any work he can get at first base in Grapefruit League play can help, and some of the growth areas for him to work on at his new position came out Saturday. He bobbled and dropped a potential double-play feed in the first inning, although the throw might not have beaten the runner anyway. Later in the game, he looked like he got a generous neighborhood call on a play where he might have pulled off the bag before the ball arrived.

It's all minor, but going from watching Mountcastle play third base Friday to first base Saturday was a good illustration of how much better suited he is at the new spot. It's just going to take some time, and by then, the bat will certainly be ready for prime time.

Escobar keeps it going

With Rule 5 draft picks Richie Martin and Drew Jackson garnering plenty of attention in camp, the man signed as veteran insurance for them this spring — Alcides Escobar — has steadily played his way into the roster conversation, too.

Escobar had an RBI single and reached on an error in four trips to the plate to bring his average to .300, and continues to play solid defense at third base and shortstop. The Orioles might not have to make a difficult decision on that matter — they could keep all three relatively painlessly — but if they want to keep Escobar around, he's giving them plenty of reasons to.


Has to be a record

The Orioles saw their lead evaporate in a five-run Rays seventh inning that featured five errors and a catcher’s interference.

Shortstop Jack Reinheimer opened the inning with a fielding error, and after an RBI triple, catcher Martin Cervenka was charged with catcher's interference to put runners at the corners. Cervenka then made a throwing error on a stolen base attempt, allowing the runner at third to score.

Orioles outfielder Austin Hays had to re-learn how to run after offseason ankle surgery, and the resulting strides with that and his offseason fitness program have him in position to earn a major league job this spring.

After Dillon Tate struck out the next batter, the Orioles threw it around on a single to right field by third baseman Michael Brosseau to right field. Stewart's throw to the plate was on target but late, and as Brosseau went to second base, Cervenka's throw there went into center field, allowing Brosseau to go to third. But expecting a throw, Brosseau slid into third base, thus taking him out of position to capitalize on center fielder Yusniel Diaz running past the ball as he tried to pick it up. Brosseau also didn't advance when Diaz's subsequent throw went to the backstop.

Reinheimer made the fifth and final error of the inning with two outs, but ended the inning with a diving play up the middle that cancelled that out some.

What else can happen?

Nearly four hours of baseball is a lot, and that meant plenty of noteworthy things happened that will be lost in the shuffle.

For example, Joey Rickard faced a four-outfielder shift in the second inning. Infielder Drew Jackson got a single out of a play when Brosseau caught a bouncer at third base, but turned around looking for the ball that was in his glove.

There were also scary moments with a pair of Orioles pitchers hitting Rays batters in the head, but Rays shortstop Willy Adames made light of it when, after subsequently reaching third base, he had to dodge a foul ball and decided to lay on the ground so he couldn’t be hit again.

But there was some good. Relievers Evan Phillips, Cody Carroll and Bo Schultz each worked scoreless innings.