Rays rout Orioles, lock up third place in AL East
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As consolation prizes go, the Tampa Bay Rays earned a pretty good one Friday night by locking up third place in the American League East with a 7-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles to open a three-game season-ending series at Tropicana Field.
The Rays (78-82) have been eliminated from playoff contention and assured of a losing record, but they now know they’ll finish ahead of the Orioles (75-85) and Toronto Blue Jays (75-85). Third place represents their highest finish in the division since 2013.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less. There’s a lot of professionalism and pride in this room,” said Logan Morrison, who hit his 38th home run and reached base four times. “We really thought we had something special here. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out. It’s disappointing that we’re not in it, but end it on a positive note.”
Friday’s game was very much two teams playing out their seasons, with neither starter lasting five innings and both clubs resting key regulars.
The Rays got three runs on sacrifice flies, two in the seventh inning from Curt Casali and Brad Miller after a solo home run by Morrison.
Starter Jake Odorizzi threw four scoreless innings of two-hit baseball before leaving with knee soreness. Brad Boxberger (4-4) earned the win in relief with a scoreless fifth.
Tampa Bay moves ahead 9-8 in the season series with Baltimore, and can clinch winning the series by taking either of the final two games. The Rays have bounced back with consecutive wins, while the Orioles have now dropped five of six and 17 of 21 after lingering in wild-card contention. Starter Wade Miley (8-15) had five of the team’s 10 walks in the loss.
“What did we walk? Eight? Nine? Ten? Can’t do that,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s been a challenge for him. ... It’s something they’ve struggled with all year.”
The Rays led 4-0 after five innings, with Miley lasting only four-plus innings before leaving after 90 pitches.
The Rays didn’t get a hit until the third inning, but Miley’s excessive walks helped get things going. Daniel Robertson walked, Peter Bourjos singled and Steven Souza walked to load the bases. Evan Longoria hit into an RBI fielder’s choice, as the Orioles couldn’t quite complete an inning-ending double play to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Tampa Bay got two strange singles in the fourth -- Cesar Puello hit a ball straight up that caromed off the catwalks above the field and went off catcher Welington Castillo’s glove and into foul territory for a single. With one out, Casali hit a bloop single into right field.
Showalter, never a fan of the stadium’s catwalks and ground rules, took exception that replay cameras couldn’t show that the ball struck the catwalk in fair territory.
“None of the four umpires could tell if it hit it. The problem is our replay has no angle that goes up to correct them,” he said. “That ring’s in foul ground, which should have been a foul ball. It was obvious that it hit it. We’re trying to go to replay to correct it and help them out. Replay has no angle, so it leaves me no course of action to correct it. It’s another flaw in obviously the ballpark, it’s been that way for a long time, a flaw in the replay to still not have a camera up there. There’s a lot of places here you’d have to put a camera to correct many things that happen.”
Miley again got himself in trouble, walking Brad Miller to load the bases before walking Robertson to bring in a run. Bourjos followed with a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
Longoria broke out of a 0-for-21 slump in the fifth inning with a solo home run, his 20th of the season, and Miley was done two batters into the fifth.
“Nice offensive performance, output again” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after his team scored nine the night before against the Yankees. “Back to back nights. We talked about needing that, and it’s nice to see the guys finishing strong.”
NOTES: Rays 3B Evan Longoria hit his 20th home run, giving him at least 20 in five straight seasons and nine of his first 10. Only one other third baseman has had nine in their first 10 -- Eddie Mathews had at least 20 homers in his first 14 seasons from 1952-65. Only one other AL third baseman had nine such seasons in their career -- Graig Nettles, who had 10. ... INF Tim Beckham, traded from the Rays to the Orioles at the trade deadline, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to Tropicana Field. Beckham had started his time with Baltimore hitting exceptionally well, and entered the game with a .311 batting average since coming to the Orioles. ... Baltimore was shut out for the 11th time this season and the third time in the last two weeks.