BALTIMORE (AP) — Michael Perez doubled and scored during the pivotal seventh inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays edged closer to a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 Thursday in a doubleheader opener.
The AL East-leading Rays would clinch a spot in the expanded postseason with a victory in Game 2, although their focus this year extends beyond merely qualifying for the playoffs.
“Just getting in was not what this team was built to do and certainly not something that we’re necessarily going to be satisfied with,” manager Kevin Cash said before the game.
Afterward, Cash said: “We’ve put ourselves in position to be here. Now we’ve got to do it.”
Baltimore pulled even at 1 in the sixth before the Rays took control against César Valdez (1-1). Pinch hitter Randy Arozarena drew a leadoff walk and took third when Perez doubled.
“Mike came up huge,” Cash said.
Yoshi Tsutsugo followed with a soft grounder to the right side that produced a run — even though the infield was drawn in — and Brandon Lowe capped the uprising with a sacrifice fly.
Rays starter Blake Snell left with a 1-0 lead and a runner on second in the sixth. Diego Castillo (3-0) subsequently yielded up a tying, two-out RBI single to Ryan Mountcastle.
Snell allowed two hits in 5 1/3 innings, but his only walk — to Pat Valaika leading off the sixth —came around to score.
“The walk to Valaika was very frustrating,” said Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner. “That’s tough to see. I’ll probably have a nightmare tonight about it. I hate walks. I really just don’t like them.”
Snell was 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA in three career appearances at Camden Yards, but those numbers were meaningless when compared to his performance in this one.
“He’s just really, really a special pitcher,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We had a tough time putting together some hits against him.”
Orioles rookie right-hander Dean Kremer gave up three hits and three walks with six strikeouts. He has surrendered one run in each of his three major league starts.
“I would say I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I really needed to compete,” Kremer said. “I mean, they have eight lefties in the lineup, one righty.”
Tampa Bay went up 1-0 in the second when Joey Wendle reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on Brett Phillips’ two-out triple into the right-field corner.
The nightcap of the doubleheader was the makeup of a game postponed on Aug. 27, when both teams decided not to play as a show of solidarity for victims of social injustice and systemic racism. Because the game was to be held in Tampa Bay, the Rays were to serve as the home team and bat last in Game 2.
Rays: RHP Trevor Richards was 29th man for the doubleheader.
Orioles: RHP Evan Phillips was selected as 29th man. Baltimore also recalled RHP Branden Kline and designated RHP Asher Wojciechowski for assignment. Wojciechowski started 16 games in 2019 but this season was 1-3 with a 6.81 ERA. “It’s been a tough day because he has meant a lot to me from the standpoint of what he did for us last year in helping us get through a tough season,” Hyde said.
Rays: OF Austin Meadows left in the third inning with left oblique soreness. He drew a walk in his only at-bat and is batting .140 in September. “I don’t think it’s that bad,” Cash said. “It was probably me being more cautious.”
Rays: Richards (0-0, 5.34 ERA) was slated to serve as the opener in the nightcap.
Orioles: LHP Bruce Zimmermann was poised to make his big league debut. Zimmermann and Phillips were obtained in the 2018 trade that sent Kevin Gausman to Atlanta.
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