Orioles top Rays, 5-4, on Pat Valaika’s walk-off single in 11th, record majors’ first leadoff double play

Starting a runner on second base in extra innings was a rule change put in place for the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season to end games quickly and add some strategy.

It served no such purpose at Camden Yards on Saturday night, until the Orioles finally took advantage in the 11th inning on a walk-off single by Pat Valaika to give them a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.


The experience itself was unprecedented for the Orioles (4-3), who hadn’t yet gone to extra innings under these rules. The baseball that followed would be unique anywhere.

“It was exciting,” said Orioles starter Wade LeBlanc, though his involvement was finished long before the extra innings started. “I can say that because we came out on top.”


“I’m glad to get that one under my belt,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s definitely different, and I did enjoy it. There’s a lot that goes into it. I’m glad we came out with a win.”

The extra frames began with an historic moment. Tampa Bay opened the 10th inning with first baseman Ji-Man Choi at second base, but when Yoshi Tsutsugo hit a deep fly ball to the left-field warning track, Cedric Mullins caught it and threw Choi out trying to tag-up and advance to third base. It marked the majors’ first-ever leadoff double play.

Hanser Alberto began the 10th on second base for the Orioles and advanced on a groundout by Anthony Santander. But when Renato Núñez grounded to shortstop with the infield in, Alberto was running on contact and was out by 10 feet at home.

Some defensive changes in the 11th for the Orioles put players in unique spots, with third baseman Rio Ruiz in left field for the first time in his career and third catcher Bryan Holaday at first base for the first time in the majors since 2015.

Holaday made a diving catch on a line drive from Manuel Margot that would have easily scored Tampa Bay’s runner with one out, and doubled him off second base to end the inning.

Convention, or as close to it as circumstances allow, took back over when Holaday began the 11th at second base, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Pedro Severino and scored on a single by Valaika off former Orioles reliever Chaz Roe.

“To get a right-on-right slider from Chaz Roe and end the game, that’s not an easy task,” Hyde said. “That was a huge hit for us.”

Hyde also enjoyed the double plays, noting that Mullins’ was the first ever leadoff double play in MLB history, “so make sure to write that down.”

Hyde credited Mullins for staying behind the ball and not assuming the runner was going to stay put just because the ball was to left field. He credited third base coach José David Flores for positioning Holaday well on the line drive that ended the 11th.

“He gets here today, makes a big play and scores the winning run — a big day for him,” Hyde said.

Valaika, who has plenty of experience with the rule from his minor league time in the Colorado Rockies organization, said that they don’t always play out that way.

“Today was a special one — two double plays?” Valaika said. “I haven’t seen that. It’s either you bunt the guy over and try to get him in, or usually teams just swing it. It usually ends up, you either score or you don’t.”


The walkoff Saturday was the Orioles’ second straight win over the visiting Rays, ensuring their second series win in three this year and continuing their trend of playing far better baseball than they did a year ago.

LeBlanc, a week from his 36th birthday, kept the Rays at bay early as the Orioles felt their way through things with Cy Young aspirant and Rays starter Tyler Glasnow. The Orioles didn’t have a hit until the fourth inning, when Núñez drilled his first home run of the season into the barren left-center field seats. Dwight Smith Jr. singled and came around the score shortly thereafter.

That two-run lead stood until Mike Brosseau homered to open the sixth inning, continuing his odd dominance of the Orioles. It was his seventh career home run, and sixth against the Orioles.

LeBlanc yielded to Evan Phillips after 5⅓ innings of one-run, four hit ball in line for his second win of the season. The Orioles added some cushion with a simple but productive sixth inning. Núñez walked and came around to score on a single by Severino. Smith singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ruiz.

The Rays, though, clawed back. Phillips retired all five batters he faced but came out to open the seventh inning and allowed a leadoff single. His replacement Shawn Armstrong made an error on a potential double-play throw to second base and loaded the bases with a walk before José Martínez hit a bloop single to center field cut the lead to 4-2. Miguel Castro came in to let two of Armstrong’s runs score.

Tanner Scott stranded a runner for Castro in the ninth with a strikeout. Travis Lakins Sr. picked up his first career win.

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