St. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Loud music played inside the visiting clubhouse of Tropicana Field following the Orioles’ 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, but in no way was this victory one to celebrate.
The Orioles didn’t make winning look easy Wednesday night. In fact, their comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rays was downright ugly.
For the first time since 1983, the Orioles won a game despite committing five or more errors, but the error column alone doesn’t accurately tell how poor the Orioles defense was Wednesday night.
Trailing 4-3, Trey Mancini saved the day with a two-run double in the ninth inning off Rays reliever Sergio Romo. After Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia opened the inning with back-to-back singles, Mancini turned on a 3-1 slider, sending it past a diving Mallex Smith in left field and off the wall, scoring both runners and giving the Orioles the lead.
The Orioles’ defensive display, however, was one of the worst in recent memory, and while some of their lapses could be attributed to a new group of players getting accustomed to playing together following the team’s recent roster overhaul, it was an embarrassing performance under any circumstances.
“We’re going to figure it out and continue working,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Certainly we have their attention about some things that we’ve got to get better at. They need to take advantage of this opportunity they’re getting and some have at times. A step forward and a step back. Tonight was a step back for us.”
The five errors the Orioles (35-79) committed were the most since a five-error game June 17, 1999, against the Chicago White Sox, and Wednesday’s win marked the first time the Orioles have won a game while committing five or more errors since a 10-7 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on June 9, 1983 at Memorial Stadium.
"[Winning is] what matters at the end of the day,” Mancini said. “It was a very interesting game. I don’t know the last time I’ve been part of a game that we’ve had five errors and won. but baseball can be a very beautiful thing sometimes, where maybe you make some mistakes but at the end of the day, still do enough to win the game. And today was one of those days."
There was very little beauty in Wednesday’s contest, which included the Orioles allowing a run on a sacrifice popout, two missed tags at second base, two errant throws to second on steal attempts and a double-play ball that led to no outs when there was no one at second base.
Even down to the final out, the Orioles defense struggled as new second baseman Jonathan Villar booted a grounder by Smith with two outs in the ninth. Caleb Joseph’s second throwing error of the night on Smith’s steal attempt put the tying run on third before right-hander Mychal Givens closed out the game.
Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner allowed three runs — but just one earned — over seven innings, and survived an ugly seventh inning in which he gave up a 3-2 lead. Cashner entered the bottom of the seventh inning having retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced and having not allowed a hit since the first inning.
“We could have been charged with another [error],” Showalter said. “It’s been a challenge for us and we’ve got to get better. You just don’t win major league games very often like that, but Cash was the difference. He didn’t give up a hard-hit ball in the first inning and gave up two runs, but bowed his neck. A lot of people pull the dirt in around them, but he just kept pitching and that’s the challenge a lot of our pitchers have had when we didn’t convert some balls that should be outs.”
Shortstop Tim Beckham was front-and-center of the mess. After Carlos Gómez reached base when he was hit by a pitch with one out, Kevin Kiermaier hit a ball to third baseman Renato Núñez, who had to wait for someone to cover second. Beckham rushed over as second baseman Jonathan Villar watched, but missed the bag as Gómez slid into second and was charged with an error.
Tampa Bay loaded the bases on Willy Adames’ infield pop-up to deep short, where Beckham slipped on the infield dirt before making a late throw on a ball that was ruled an infield single. No. 9 hitter Michael Perez lifted a bloop pop-up that Beckham caught in shallow left field, but Gómez tagged at third, sped for home and slid headfirst across the plate as Beckham’s throw was offline.
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Gómez’s two-out RBI double to right field off right-hander Mike Wright in the bottom of the eighth, a fly ball that Valencia didn’t appear to think he had a shot at catching and allowed to drop, gave the Rays a 4-3 lead going into the ninth.
Cashner rebounded from one of the worst starts of his career, allowing just four hits over seven innings. Cashner, who allowed a career-high 10 runs and lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his last start Thursday in Texas, allowed just four hits over seven innings. He settled in after allowing two runs in the first inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Jake Bauers and Joey Wendle.
“I think for me, it’s just continuing to find my arm slot with my sinker,” Cashner said. “I thought I did that pretty well tonight. I thought my sinker had some of my best life in a while. I thought my changeup was good. I kind of tweaked my curveball a little bit the last five days and tonight I felt like a lot of my stuff kind of came together.”
In the first inning, Smith singled and went from first to third on Caleb Joseph’s throwing error on Smith’s steal of second. Bauers singled home Smith, then attempted to steal second, and Beckham dropped Joseph’s throw for an E-6, putting Bauers in scoring position for Wendle’s single.
“[Cashner] did an awesome job tonight,” Mancini said.”He’s so good at that. He really doesn’t let anything get to him and he always has everyone’s back. Even if the defense is not totally doing the job behind him, he’ll do his best to do some damage control there.”
The Orioles hit three solo homers — including back-to-back shots by Beckham and Adam Jones in the top of the first inning off Rays opener Ryne Stanek. Mark Trumbo’s solo homer to open the fourth inning off Rays left-hander Jalen Beeks put the Orioles up 3-2.
Through the first two games of the series, the Orioles have hit five homers off Rays pitching, but all of them have been solo shots. Sixty-three percent of the Orioles’ homers — 89 of 142 — have been solo home runs.