O's dominate Rays for franchise-first 4-game sweep at The Trop

Burnes' hot stretch continues with career-high 9th consecutive quality start

June 11th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Once a house of horrors, Tropicana Field now feels like home to the Orioles -- and not only because of the sea of loud, energetic orange-clad fans who are filling the seats behind the third-base dugout every time the Birds come to town.

The O’s have made themselves quite comfortable by dominating the Rays of late.

For the first time in the ballpark’s 26-year history, Baltimore swept a four-game series at The Trop, completing the feat with a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Monday night. The Orioles (43-22) moved a season-high 21 games above .500 and improved to 17-6 in American League East play this year.

“I think our guys are too young, honestly -- and maybe our older guys understand how hard that is -- but our younger guys, they don’t really understand it, that this is not normal,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “You just don’t go on the road and beat a team four times, no matter what their record is. It’s just super hard to do in the Major Leagues.”

The O’s have already done it twice in 2024, having won all four vs. the White Sox in Chicago from May 23-26. It’s the first time the club has had multiple four-game road sweeps in a season since 1987 (May 22-25 at Oakland and July 16-19 at Kansas City).

In nine previous four-game sets featuring the Orioles at Tropicana Field, they had won only two -- one being the previous series from July 20-23, 2023, when Baltimore took three of four.

The Orioles have won six of seven meetings this season with the Rays (31-35, last in the AL East) -- all coming over the past 11 days -- and eight of their past nine overall. During this weekend’s wraparound four-game series, Baltimore outscored Tampa Bay, 25-7.

It’s much different than only a few years ago -- for example, when the Rays won 27 of 29 meetings with the O’s from Aug. 25, 2020, to April 10, 2022.

But back then, Baltimore didn’t have a pitcher the caliber of .

“Four-game sweep on the road is impressive no matter who you beat,” Burnes said. “This is a good team that has done a lot of winning in the past years. So to come in and really do everything well -- pitch great, play good defense, hit the ball well -- it’s tough to beat us when we have all those things working.”

Teams are especially having trouble defeating the Orioles when they start Burnes, who extended his career-long streak of quality starts to nine and became the first Baltimore pitcher to have a run that long since Erik Bedard (nine from July 7-Aug. 21, 2007).

Burnes continued his stellar first season with the Orioles by allowing only two unearned runs -- both scoring on an Alex Jackson homer in the second that immediately followed an error by second baseman Jordan Westburg on a dropped popup -- over seven strong innings. The 29-year-old right-handed ace struck out six while lowering his ERA to 2.08 through 14 starts.

Prior to Burnes (the 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner who came over in a Feb. 1 trade with Milwaukee), no Baltimore pitcher posted an ERA that low over his first 14 outings of a season (min. 75 innings) since 1984 (Storm Davis, 1.58).

“He didn’t win a Cy Young on accident. He hasn’t put up the numbers that he’s put up on accident,” said catcher James McCann, who homered in the finale win. “There’s a reason behind all of it. He’s a lot more fun to catch than have to try and hit off of, I know that.”

One explanation for Burnes’ success is his lack of complacency.

“I feel like I’ve thrown the ball well,” said Burnes, who has a 1.09 ERA over his past four starts and a 1.13 ERA in six divisional outings. “But I feel like there’s still a lot of room to improve.”

The Orioles capped their 6-2 AL East road trip vs. Toronto and Tampa Bay with another well-rounded showing. Gunnar Henderson homered on the game’s first pitch, his 21st long ball of the season (and seventh in leadoff fashion). He collected three hits, as did Ryan O’Hearn -- who hit a go-ahead two-run double in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh.

As the team took a late-night flight home to Baltimore, more challenges were on the horizon in the form of an upcoming six-game homestand vs. two of MLB’s top teams (Atlanta and Philadelphia) that starts Tuesday.

But momentum is on the side of the O’s, who went 10-4 during a stretch of 14 consecutive AL East games and sit 2 1/2 games back of the first-place Yankees following an impressive showing in St. Petersburg.

“It just speaks to the competitive spirit of our guys. Not being satisfied with winning three out of four,” O’Hearn said. “Guys showed up, and we competed our butts off and figured out a way to get the sweep. It’s awesome.”