If the Baltimore Orioles are looking for positive signs for next season, they got plenty of them in a gritty comeback win.
Despite being in last place with nothing to play for, the Orioles received solid contributions from two rookies and rallied from a five-run deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 10-5 on Tuesday night.
“This late in the year, to not give in, that’s a lot of fight and determination,” manager Dave Trembley said.
Article continues below ...
Matt Wieters fueled the comeback with a homer and a career-high five RBIs, and right-hander Jason Berken held the Rays in check after giving up four first-inning runs.
Wieters, a former No. 1 draft pick playing in his 78th game, appears to have justified the hype that surrounded his arrival in late May.
“It’s good for the organization, it’s good for the team,” Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. “There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s hard enough up here without having to deal with that. I think it was a little unfair, the expectations early on. Now he’s finally started to get comfortable and find his groove.”
Berken (5-11) kept the Orioles in the game after a rocky start. He gave up four hits in the first inning and only three more before being lifted with one out in the seventh.
“That’s one of the reasons why these guys are here, to help them learn how to do those sorts of things. You can’t learn that down there,” Roberts said. “He could have easily folded early on.”
It was a good night for Roberts, too. He collected his career-high 74th RBI and set a franchise record with his 52nd double of the season.
“It’s something that when it’s all said and done and I’m old and I have my grandkids sitting on my knee, I might look back and enjoy it,” he said. “But right now, it’s just kind of, try to play games and help these young guys along and get us ready for next year.”
Roberts, Wieters and Cesar Izturis had three hits apiece for the Orioles, who rallied against rookie Jeff Niemann (12-6).
Niemann, who allowed six runs and a career-high 11 hits in 4 1-3 innings, lost for the first time in nine starts since July 26. It was his shortest start since June 21, and the six earned runs matched a career high, set in his first outing of the season against Baltimore.
“A lot of balls were left up. I didn’t really execute location very well today, and that’s what happens when you miss,” Niemann said. “They’re going to take advantage of that.”
Wieters put the Orioles ahead for good with two-run single in the fifth, Luke Scott hit his team-high 22nd homer in the seventh and Wieters clinched it with a three-run drive off Chad Bradford in the eighth.
“There’s definitely progress being made,” said Wieters, who raised his batting average to .272. “There are a lot of adjustments to be made up here, and you’re going to have to keep making them.”
Tampa Bay’s Pat Burrell broke out of a 1-for-22 slump with a homer and four RBIs, and Ben Zobrist fell a home run short of the cycle. But the Rays lost for the 12th time in 13 games.
Only 11,575 showed up on a beautiful night for baseball. But with the Orioles 34 games out of first place, and because the opponent wasn’t Boston or the New York Yankees, the stadium wasn’t even one-fourth full.
An RBI single by Zobrist and a three-run homer by Burrell staked the Rays to a 4-0 lead in the first, and Tampa Bay added a third-inning run when Zobrist tripled and scored on a single by Burrell.
“It’s definitely on me for not being able to hold that lead,” Niemann said.
Baltimore closed to 5-2 in the bottom half on Roberts’ record-breaking RBI double and a run-scoring grounder by Nick Markakis.
Izturis singled in a run in the fourth, and the Orioles chased Niemann during a three-run fifth that included a run-scoring groundout by Scott and Wieters’ two-run single.
Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria grounded into his AL-high 27th double play. … For only the third time in 21 starts, Berken had three perfect innings. … Orioles CF Felix Pie returned after missing three games with back spasms. He went 1 for 4, scored a run and made a couple of nice running catches.