Bullpen Helps Lift Rays To 5-4 Win Over Orioles

Rich Hill delivers to Cedric Mullins in the first inning of the Rays’ win over Baltimore on Saturday

ST. PETERSBURG — Four Rays relievers combined to allow only two hits in 4 ⅓ shutout innings of a 5-4 win over the Orioles on Saturday.

The victory, in front of an announced 9,925, the largest crowd at Tropicana Field this season, was the Rays’ fifth in their last six games.

The defeat was the Orioles’ 14th straight on the road, setting a team record. 

The Rays took a 3-0 lead in the first, a lead that swelled to 5-0 after four innings before Baltimore’s Austin Wynns hit a grand slam off Rays starter Rich Hill in the fifth to make it a one-run game.

“It got tight after the grand slam,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “There was no margin for error and (Collin) McHugh was awesome. Pete (Fairbanks) and Diego (Castillo) did their jobs.”

Thanks to a couple of double plays, Hill faced the minimum through four innings before a couple of walks and Wynns’ two-out slam ended his day in the fifth. Ryan Thompson finished the inning.

McHugh pitched two scoreless innings and fanned five to pick up his first win in a Rays’ uniform. Fairbanks retired the side in the eighth and Castillo picked up his 11th save, getting Maikel Franco to ground out on the eighth pitch of the at-bat to end the game.

The Rays did not exactly hit the tar out of the ball in their three-run first inning against Jorge Lopez. However, four well-placed hits highlighted the inning. In the process they made Lopez work to the tune of 33 pitches.

“We didn’t smoke the balls in the first inning, but we found holes and had timely hits,” said Cash.

Brandon Lowe’s double in the fourth, which bounced over the head of left fielder Ryan Mountcastle, drove in Mike Zunino and Brett Phillips to make it 5-0.

Phillips reached when he was hit by a Lopez pitch. He immediately said something to the right handed pitcher and home plate umpire Nick Mahrley and Wynns started to get between Phillips and Lopez.

However, Phillips was joking with Lopez, his former teammate in Milwaukee and Kansas City. Phillips laughed all the way to first base.

“He is one of my favorite teammates,” said Phillips. “Obviously, he did not do that on purpose. When I was hit, I thought I would have a little fun with it. The umpire and catcher could not see I was laughing.”

Everybody can see how the Rays are playing. They have won 22 of their last 27 and Saturday’s victory coupled with Boston’s loss to Toronto gives them a two-game lead over the Red Sox.

The Rays will go for the sweep of Baltimore tomorrow afternoon at 1:10.

****

Matt Wisler, acquired from the Giants on Friday, said that he was excited to join a team that he has admired from a distance.

“The stuff they have done here and the guys that have produced the past couple of years is incredible,” he said prior to Saturday’s game. “Hopefully, I can win here and make some adjustments and kind of click on the mound and get things rolling.”

The 28-year-old righthander was 1-2 with a 6.05 ERA in 21 appearances with the Giants this season. He had a 2.65 ERA in his last nine outings.

Wisler was drafted by the Padres in 2011 and made his MLB debut with the Braves in 2015. He made 45 starts his first two seasons with Atlanta and has since been used mostly out of the bullpen. His career mark is 19-28 with a 4.95 ERA.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.