ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Thanks in part to pinch-hitter Jerry Sands, the Tampa Bay Rays are feeling a little better about themselves.
The reserve utility man came off the bench to provide the game-winning hit for the second straight game, delivering a two-run homer that helped the Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 on Monday night.
Sands’ first homer since Sept. 20, 2011, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, came off Brian Matusz and snapped a 3-3 tie.
Yunel Escobar hit a solo homer in the first and Ryan Hanigan added a two-run drive in the fourth for a 3-0 lead against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen.
"It’s big," Sands after the Rays won for the fourth time in five games following a stretch in which they dropped 14 of 15 and fell to last place in the AL East with the worst record in the majors. "Obviously this team has been struggling to get some wins lately, so it’s fun to be the guy that does it for the team."
Adam Jones homered for the second straight day for Baltimore, hitting a two-run shot in the sixth off rookie Jake Odorizzi, who allowed two runs and three hits over 5 1-3 innings. Delmon Young had a pinch-hit homer in the ninth off Juan Carlos Oviedo, who got the last three outs for his first save.
Sands, who broke three bats while singling in the eighth inning to drive home the winning run in a victory at Houston on Sunday, went deep on a 2-0 pitch after Matusz replaced Darren O’Day (2-1), who departed with a runner on and two outs.
The 26-year-old, who has five career homers, was 1 for 9 as a pinch-hitter with Tampa Bay before the past two at-bats.
"This guy’s done a nice job off the bench," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I know he’s going to be aggressive … and I know he’s not going to be intimidated by the situation."
The Orioles had just tied it in the top of the eighth with a run charged to Grant Balfour, loading the bases with two singles and a walk before Nelson Cruz delivered an RBI infield single.
Baltimore nearly took the lead when pinch-hitter Steve Pearce lined a pitch down the left field line, but the ball landed foul. Two pitches later, he grounded into a force play, letting Jake McGee (3-0) off the hook.
"It’s such a fine line. Stevie’s ball barely misses the chalk line there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Of course McGee is one the better relief pitchers in the league. Our guys have been doing a good job out the pen, too. It’s frustrating."
The Orioles announced before the game that two-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, who hasn’t played since May 10, will have season-ending surgery on his right elbow. Showalter said the team is hopeful Wieters, who was examined Monday by Dr. James Andrews, will be ready for opening day next year.
The Rays nearly wasted the second straight solid start for Odorizzi, who held St. Louis hitless until two outs of the fifth inning of a 1-0 loss last Tuesday. Matt Holliday homered for the only run of the game, Tampa Bay’s third consecutive shutout loss during a stretch in which they went 31 straight innings without scoring.
Since ending the streak, the Rays have scored 24 runs in five games.
"We won a really tough game (Sunday), we won a really tough game here tonight," Madden said. "When you start believing you’re going to win games late, that’s a good feeling to get. That’s when you start getting good again, and we did."
Odorizzi allowed Hardy’s single and a walk with two outs in the second, escaping the jam by fanning Ryan Flaherty. The 24-year-old right-hander retired eight straight after walking Nick Markakis in the third, with the Orioles right fielder interrupting the string with a double leading off the sixth.
Jones hit his 12th homer one out later, ending Odorizzi’s night and trimming Baltimore’s deficit to 3-2.
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed before the game in honor of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who died Monday. … The Orioles plan to activate RHP Miguel Gonzalez (strained right oblique) from the 15-day DL to start Tuesday night’s game against Tampa Bay LHP Erik Bedard. Both are 3-4 this season. … Showalter agrees with Maddon that a team shouldn’t lose a replay challenge when the contested call stands instead of being confirmed. "A great idea," Showalter said. "He’s right. A lot of times they just say there’s nothing conclusive. You may be right, but we can’t overturn it. So, why should you be penalized for that?" … Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) is scheduled to make his third minor league rehab start Tuesday, when Triple-A Durham visits Louisville.