Rays' 9th-inning charge comes up short in series finale loss to Orioles
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Orioles surged ahead and then had a tough time staying there.
All that happened just in the ninth inning.
Renato Nunez hit a three-run homer to complete a six-run ninth, and Baltimore held on for a 9-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night.
Nunez hit one of two three-run homers for the Orioles, but it took a diving lunge by reliever Mychal Givens to keep the Orioles from falling behind before the big inning.
Nunez's 19th home run came off Jose Alvarado after an RBI triple by Jonathan Villar. The blast put the Orioles up 9-3 before Tampa Bay tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Shawn Armstrong came in to get the final out with two runners on base and earn his second save.
"We haven't had a whole lot of late-game wins," said a relieved manager Brandon Hyde. "With a six-run lead, obviously you should be able to hold that. But it's baseball and things happen."
The Rays had their four-game winning streak snapped and fell 6 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees.
"That inning kind of uploaded on us there. The leadoff walks are telling. It's amazing how many times those guys come around and score," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "It's frustrating. Look, when you lose late games, that's going to be more frustrating than getting separated early."
Alvarado (0-5) gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning.
"I think the error, for me, was in the first at-bat, a walk (of pinch-hitter Anthony Santander)," he said.
Givens (1-4) got his first win since Sept. 24, 2017, after lunging to barely tag out a sliding Kevin Kiermaier near the plate, preventing the Rays from taking a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Givens, who had lost 11 straight decisions, appeared to be injured after falling down after the play, but he got up and finished the inning.
"I wouldn't mind him flipping the ball to the catcher there, to be honest, and stay out of it," Hyde said. "Obviously we need him, but it was a good play."
Rookie All-Star left-hander John Means started for Baltimore and pitched seven innings, leaving after throwing 98 pitches.
Means, who has not lost in seven starts since May 18, gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits, walking none while striking out five.
"I was honestly just happy to get past five innings, since that's what I've been doing the past (three) starts," Means said. "I've gathered some nicknames along the way, like five-and-dive ... so I'm glad I could go seven today."
The Orioles have won only five games since June 8 and Means has started three of them. He goes into the All-Star break with a 7-4 record and a 2.50 ERA.
After his throwing error helped the Rays score the game's first run, Rio Ruiz hit a three-run homer off Austin Pruitt, his fifth of the season, accounting for all the Orioles' scoring until the ninth.
Mike Brosseau's first career home run drove in the first earned run off Means in the fourth inning, and the Rays tied it at 3 in the sixth on a double by Yandy Diaz and a single by Avisail Garcia.
Rays opener Ryne Stanek pitched only the first inning, striking out two.
The crowd of 21,545 brought the total for the three-game series to 62,911. About 30,000 tickets were sold for $2 apiece.
BULLPEN HELP WANTED
Hyde, whose team came into Wednesday night's game with a 5.76 ERA: "You've got to be able to pitch to win in this league, and to keep games close in this league. I think our starters have done a pretty good job, especially recently, and I'd just like to see our bullpen guys start to keep us in games a little more."
Orioles: LHP Josh Rogers had UCL revision surgery in Dallas, a procedure that has a recovery projection similar to that of Tommy John surgery. ... OF D.J. Stewart (right ankle sprain) will continue his rehab at Double-A Bowie.
Rays: Kiermaier was scratched from the lineup about 90 minutes before the first pitch due to left wrist soreness. He pinch ran in the eighth. . 2B Brandon Lowe was added to the AL All-Star team but may not play due to a bruised lower right leg, an injury that happened on a foul ball Tuesday. ... INF Matt Duffy, on the IL with a strained left hamstring, is expected to play for the Gulf Coast League Rays on Thursday.
Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy (3-10) will pitch the opener of a three-game series at Toronto against RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-11) on Friday night.
Rays: RHP Yonny Chrinos (7-4) will pitch Thursday night's opener of a four-game series against the Yankees. LHP J.A. Happ (7-4) will pitch for New York for the first time since giving up eight earned runs in a loss to Houston on June 23.