BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The Baltimore Orioles’ improbable ride to the top of the American League East continued on Thursday with an electrifying 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Manny Machado delivered the game winner, lining a two-out, run-scoring single off Chris Archer in the bottom of the 14th inning to the delight of the 25,130 fans at Camden Yards.
Machado’s hit was nearly caught by Matt Joyce but the ball fell just under the left-fielder’s glove, allowing Adam Jones to trot home from second and give the Orioles their 13th successive extra-innings win.
“I thought it had a chance to get down,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Machado’s hit. “With their outfield, they’re so good defensively, you expect them to catch everything. It was fortunate it found some grass.”
Joyce said he was so close to making the catch he was not sure exactly where the ball landed.
”Honestly I don’t know if it was underneath my glove,“ he said. ”I know it hit my glove on the bottom. It was hard to tell what exactly happened.
“Only thing I can tell you is I didn’t come up with it.”
The win guaranteed the Orioles (81-62) a .500 record for the first time since 1997 and gave them a half-game lead over the second place New York Yankees.
New York can climb back into a tie for first with a victory later Thursday against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Although the victory snapped the Orioles’ losing streak at 14 seasons, Showalter said that was never an incentive for his club, noting the players have “a bigger goal in mind.”
”That wasn’t the goal from day one of the spring, or even day one of the off-season,“ he said. ”It’s watching other teams for years and saying, ‘We want to do what they’re doing.’
“We’d like to get a chair at the dance, you know?”
The 20-year-old Machado said he is “having a blast this season.”
“This team is great to be around,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys. We’re all excited. We all have one goal, which is make the playoffs.”
The Rays (77-66), who were a season-high 10-1/2 games off the pace in the East on July 18, dropped all three games of the series with Baltimore and fell four games out of first.
Tampa Bay, who have lost an American League-worst 26 one-run games, took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Ben Zobrist tagged from third on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Keppinger.
Jones made a diving catch but his throw home was a shade late to catch Zobrist.
Baltimore’s Taylor Teagarden, a seldom-used catcher hitting just .119 entering the game, delivered a seventh-inning, two-run double to the gap in right-center to put the Orioles on top 2-1.
Tampa Bay, however, tied the game at 2-2 the next inning when an infield single by Zobrist scored Desmond Jennings from third.
Showalter, whose team travels to Oakland for a three-game series with the Athletics from Friday, did not seem impressed by the Orioles’ prowess in extra inning games.
“I was thinking in the dugout, ‘If we’re so good at it, why didn’t we do (win) it in the 10th inning?'” he said with a smile.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury