Rays Pass A Test In Winning Series With Last Place Orioles

Two out of three from Baltimore means the Rays are winning the games they should win

The Tampa Bay Rays rallied back from a 3-0 deficit after two innings to tie the game in the sixth, but the Orioles took the lead right back in the seventh on a leadoff home run from Renato Nunez.  The Rays rallied back after the stretch, however, when Jake Bauers singled home the tying and go-ahead runs with the bases loaded to put the Rays on top 5-4. They would hold on to that one run margin, finishing off a series win that shows something about where the Rays are headed and how fast they might get there.  It was their sixth consecutive game to end in a one run margin.

While the Rays are all but out of any real contention for a wild card spot, the team does not consider itself far from contention.  They expect to be in the hunt for the playoffs in 2019.  That means that they need to win the games that they are supposed to win.  That includes games against last place teams who already traded away their best players, such as the Baltimore Orioles.  With a hard-luck loss on Wednesday night to even the series against Baltimore, that made Thursday night’s rubber match a useful gauge on the team’s progress toward that goal.

Should the Rays continue their progress into next season and make that leap to being contenders, this game and series should provide them valuable experience.  Every team will drop a game here and there to a team with a worse record, but winning those series is paramount, especially in a league as top-heavy as the American League seems to be.

The Rays evened up their season series with the Orioles at 8 games each.  Yonny Chirinos got the win after five strong innings in long relief, continuing to earn his way back to a future spot in the starting rotation.  Sergio Romo picked up the save, his fourteenth of the season and a clean inning to bounce back from a rough appearance on Wednesday night.

Not a grand opening for Rays

Hunter Wood got the nod as the opener for Thursday night’s game.  He had been thriving in the role before, but against the Orioles that was not the case.  Wood allowed two baserunners in the first before a double play got him out of trouble, and the second inning was a rough one.  Like the first, Wood got out of the second thanks to a double play, but three runs had crossed home plate by that time.  A triple by center fielder Joey Rickard plated two runs, and he came around on an Austin Wynns single the next at bat to give Baltimore a 3-0 lead and put the Rays in a hole early.

Yonny Chirinos had what might be best described as “continuer” duties as the long man out of the bullpen after an opener.  He immediately calmed down the Orioles’ bats, surrendering just one run in five innings of work and keeping the Rays within reach to enable the comeback.  He was efficient, throwing just 63 pitches in the five innings and walking nobody against four strikeouts.

What’s on deck

The Rays’ nine game homestand has come to an end, and they prepare themselves for a nine game road trip in return.  There is no travel day, and Friday night the Rays will be in Toronto to begin a three game series in the building that to many will forever be known as SkyDome.

Blake Snell will take the hill for Tampa Bay in game one of the weekend series, going up against Marco Estrada.  The Blue Jays avoided being swept at the hands of the Red Sox in Boston this week, winning 8-5 on Thursday night after losing emphatically on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tampa Bay is 5-1 against the Blue Jays this season, but all of those games were played in Tropicana Field.  It will be their first visit to Canada this season.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.