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Stevie Wilkerson’s late homer helps Orioles top Rays, 2-1, in first game of doubleheader

In a season with so few of them, Saturday was an unquestionably good day for the Orioles' pitching staff — and that includes left fielder Stevie Wilkerson.

After mopping up the last inning of Friday’s beating at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays as an emergency pitcher, Wilkerson hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to make 2-1 winners out of the Orioles in the first game of Saturday’s split doubleheader before an announced crowd of 22,596 at Camden Yards.

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“They’re both good for the memory bank,” Wilkerson said. “I’ll never forget either of those, and I’ll take today’s over yesterday’s for sure. ... We didn’t have much going offensively and neither did they. But I was able to get a big hit and put us up. It was a good ballgame today.”

Aaron Brooks, making his debut with the Orioles (28-63) after being claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics before the All-Star break, gave a glimpse of why they want him to start going forward. Brooks faced the minimum eight batters in 2 2/3 innings, with only a hit batter blemishing his line.

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Jimmy Yacabonis gave up a home run to Mike Zunino — the first batter he faced — and allowed a pair of singles before getting out of that third inning. But Yacabonis pitched three more frames with no damage to keep the Orioles close, and the pitchers who followed him didn’t allow a hit the rest of the way.

“I just thought we threw the ball good,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought Aaron Brooks was great for 2 2/3 innings, and after Yacabonis faced Zunino, he was really good after that.”

Richard Bleier (1-0) cleaned up a pair of walks by Shawn Armstrong to open the seventh and keep the Orioles within one for Wilkerson’s home run, which came after Anthony Santander’s second hit of the game.

A night after allowing a season-high 20 hits, the Orioles tied their season low with three hits allowed for the fifth time this season.

“I love those games, watching pitchers do their thing — especially on our side of the ball,” Wilkerson said. “To watch Brooks come in and throw really well, and the rest of the bullpen throw really well — that’s baseball, and it’s fun to be a part of.”

Big impression by Brooks

Brooks spent from May on as a reliever for the Athletics, with decent success. But the Orioles opted to start him in their rotation out of the break at the expense of Gabriel Ynoa and Asher Wojciechowski, both of whom pitched in relief Friday.

He needed just 32 pitches to retire eight batters, and with Dylan Bundy on the injured list, might get another chance to stretch out further.

“I was hoping for two, and he had two good innings,” Hyde said. “When we sent him back out there for the third, he had not thrown more than two innings in over a month. He hadn’t been on a mound in almost two weeks. For him to get into the third there is pretty impressive.”

Givens goes two

Bleier walked the first batter of the eighth inning and gave way to Mychal Givens, who hadn’t pitched since July 3 against the Rays in a game where he had a collision making a diving tag at the plate.

He was sore all through last weekend’s series in Toronto, and got the All-Star break to rest, but got the big outs at the end for the Orioles on Saturday. He struck out two in the ninth inning.

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