Odorizzi’s nine strikeouts highlight Rays’ win over Orioles
BALTIMORE — Tampa Bay bashed its way into the franchise record books to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. That was more than enough for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
In a 9-6 victory over Baltimore that knocked the Orioles out of playoff contention, Odorizzi turned in his second consecutive dominant performance, striking out a season-high nine batters.
Lucas Duda matched his career-high with his 30th home run of the season. It marked the 217th of the season for the Rays, which set the franchise record. Logan Morrison added a solo home run on the first pitch in the ninth inning to run the total to 218.
Tampa Bay (76-79) remained five games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second American League wild-card spot with seven games to play.
“Good win,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Jake threw the ball well, even after the first inning when he threw 30 pitches if not right on it. He came back, settled in, threw a good ballgame for us. He made some big pitches.”
Before one of the largest crowds of the season at Camden Yards (42,802), the Orioles (74-82) lost for the sixth time in seven games to fall out of the postseason chase.
Trailing 9-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, the made things interesting with a five-run rally. But that could not save them from their 14th loss in 17 games.
“That’s something I’ll have to look at now,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of being eliminated from the playoff race. “I haven’t looked at any of that stuff.”
Duda gave the Rays a 3-1 lead with two outs in the top of the third by lining a 3-2 pitch from Orioles starter Jeremy Hellickson over the right-field wall.
The homer followed back-to-back singles by No. 9 hitter Adeiny Hechavarria and leadoff man Kevin Kiermaier. Hellickson had retired the first eight batters prior to that flurry of hits.
The Rays added two more runs in the seventh off reliever Richard Bleier on an RBI single by Wilson Ramos and a sacrifice fly to right by Hechavarria that scored Steven Souza Jr. They added four more in the ninth, including Morrison’s 37th home run of the season.
That was more than enough for Odorizzi (10-8, 4.26 ERA), the 27-year-old who was making his 27th start of the season for the Rays. Over six innings, he allowed an unearned run on three hits and walked only two.
“The change-up was a big key tonight,” he said. “I was able to throw it effectively and get a lot of good movement on it. It’s been kind of hit or miss all year. So, it was nice to have one of my major weapons back, and I used it to my advantage tonight.”
Since the start of 2016, Odorizzi has allowed three hits or fewer in 18 starts, the most in the American League over that span. Last Sunday night, he had a no-hitter through five innings before giving up a leadoff homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the sixth, the only hit Odorizzi allowed on his way to the win.
“These last four starts have been really good, probably the best I’ve thrown in maybe my career,” Odorizzi said. “I finally feel good. It (stinks) that it’s September. I wish it was July, see what kind of happens. It’s always nice to have health being on your side to end the year.”
Hellickson pitched well other than the one brief rough patch in the third inning. But that was enough to send him to his third consecutive loss and sixth in his last nine starts.
Hellickson (2-6, 6.97 ERA), facing his former team for the first time, allowed three runs and four hits, in addition to striking out four and walking one.
Hellickson, who pitched for the Rays from 2010-2014, has not won since an Aug. 25 road start against the Boston Red Sox.
“Besides those three (runs), I felt good,” he said. “That’s happened way too many times this year. Two outs, nobody on. I just can’t get that third out for some reason.”
Down to their last gasp, the Orioles batted around in the ninth inning off the Tampa Bay bullpen. They scored five runs before an out was recorded.
Eventually, Rays closer Alex Colome came on to record the final out and his 46th save of the season.
“To mount something there (in the ninth) and put a lot together and get the tying run to the plate, I think you probably could have taken a lot of bets,” Showalter said. “That was good to see.”
NOTES: The Rays improved to 8-7 against the Orioles in 2017 with four games remaining in the season series. ... Rays DH Logan Morrison hit his 27th home run of the season on the road to extend his American League lead and team record. ... Orioles RHP Jeremy Hellickson surrendered his 35th home run of the season, which is a career high. ... With one home game remaining, the Orioles fell to 45-35 this season at Camden Yards.