St. Petersburg, Fla. — The Orioles were six outs away from opening their three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays with a hard-earned victory Tuesday, but their night ended trotting off the field as the Rays celebrated a 4-3 walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.
The new-look Orioles bullpen — a unit still trying to find its identity after the club traded away its top late-inning arms — couldn’t hold a two-run lead in a chaotic eighth inning.
With two outs in the ninth, manager Buck Showalter brought in right-hander Miguel Castro to face No. 9 hitter Willy Adames, and Castro hung a 3-1 sinker that Adames hit into the left-field seats for the game-winning homer.
Castro entered the game after left-hander Paul Fry retired all four batters he faced, striking out three and inducing a double-play ball to end some eighth-inning chaos.
The Orioles led 3-1 going into the eighth, but Evan Phillips allowed two unearned runs during his second appearance since joining the club from the Atlanta Braves as part of the Kevin Gausman/Darren O’Day trade.
Phillips walked three of the four batters he faced and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. He could have been helped out of the inning with a likely double-play ball, but first baseman Chris Davis made an errant throw to second base.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the Orioles long term,” Showalter said. “I thought Paul Fry had another really good outing tonight with just one day’s rest. We got a double-play ball, potentially, that we don’t convert. Otherwise, I’d be talking about what a good outing that Evan had except for the command a little bit. That’s a young pitcher. He’ll have a lot of one step forward and two steps backs.”
The eighth-inning implosion took a win away from Alex Cobb, who held his former team to one run on five hits through seven innings.
“He threw the ball well,” shortstop Tim Beckham said. “I know Cobb. He’s going to go out and toe the mound, no matter the circumstances and he’s going to come ready to play. That’s what he did tonight. He settled in, we got him the lead and he threw the ball well. He was using everything, curveball, changeup. Kept those guys off-balance. Tough loss for the boys tonight.”
Cobb has allowed just one run in each of his past two starts. He held the Yankees to one run over six innings in a 7-5 win at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, a victory that ended Cobb’s personal nine-start winless streak.
He fell behind 1-0 after allowing three straight singles to open the bottom of the first inning, but didn’t allow a run after that. Cobb didn’t allow a hit over his final four innings and retired the last 10 batters he faced and 14 of his final 16.
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“I just think that I realized how aggressive they were being early on,” Cobb said. “Those middle innings, they weren’t getting off the fastball, which was fortunate because I was able to throw my offspeed and get ahead in some counts. I probably should have done some better planning that they were going to come out as aggressive as they did. But we had a game plan and before I knew it, there was a run on the board, so just kind of had to slow things down, tried to get some outs pitch by pitch.”
Phillips entered the game in the eighth and walked Mallex Smith. Matt Duffy hit a grounder to Davis, whose throw to second tailed wide of Beckham and into left field. Phillips walked Jake Bauers on five pitches to load the bases and Smith scored on a wild pitch. C.J. Cron drew a walk, chasing Phillips from the game.
“His command was a little bit more of a challenge,” Showalter said of Phillips, who threw two perfect innings with three strikeouts in his first appearance with the Orioles on Friday. “He’s close to getting Smith out to lead off the inning and gets behind the count with the changeup right out of the chute. But he got a big potential double-play ball. There’s a fine line where you could be sitting there talking about [a good outing]. I can’t tell you what things like that do for a young pitcher, when you can get something like that and things settle in a little bit. But Paulie came in and did a great job. To come out of that the way he did and give us a chance to get back in there, that inning could have gotten away from us.”
Fry entered and induced a 4-6-3 double-play ball from pinch hitter Carlos Gomez, but it allowed Duffy to score the tying run. Fry struck out Kevin Kiermaier to strand the go-ahead run at third.
Beckham and Trey Mancini each hit solo homers for the Orioles. Beckham’s fifth homer of the year came off right-hander Tyler Glasnow in the fourth inning, and Mancini went the opposite way with a homer to right field off right-hander Jamie Schultz in the fifth.
The Orioles scored another run in the sixth, but could have potentially done more damage in the inning. After Beckham drew a leadoff walk, Adam Jones doubled down the left-field line and Mark Trumbo hit an RBI single past Adames in a drawn-in infield.
But the Orioles couldn’t produce any more, as Davis struck out and Mancini hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.