BALTIMORE -- It was a streak that stood alone in franchise history, shaped an American League East race, illustrated the competitive divide in baseball’s most competitive division, and now it is over. Before Friday’s uncharacteristically sloppy 8-6, 13-inning loss at Camden Yards, it had been 15 games since the Rays had dropped a contest to the Orioles. It had been even longer since they found themselves in the Charm City and on the losing side, a nine-game stretch dating back to Sept. 20, 2020.
“Watching them the last couple years, they’re not far off from competing -- their time is coming,” Kevin Kiermaier said. “We’ve had such a good run against these guys, and we wanted to keep that going.”
All that history went poof over the course of Friday’s back-and-forth, 4-hour, 22-minute marathon, as the Rays watched a three-run lead crumble around Randy Arozarena’s error in the seventh and the Orioles storm back from deficits in the 10th and 11th before walking off against Ralph Garza Jr. in the 13th. After Tampa Bay had what appeared to be the go-ahead run overturned via challenge in the top of the inning, Rougned Odor’s two-run homer snapped what was the Rays’ longest winning streak against a single opponent in franchise history, dating back to July 19, 2021.
“These extra-inning games are such cat-and-mouse games,” Keirmaier said. “You get a lead, think it’s secure, if you score two you like your chances. They capitalized on a few different things and kept the game going. That was a tough one.”
Here are a few key moments that led to the outcome:
Game of inches
Three times in extras, the Rays jumped ahead in the top of the inning -- or so it appeared. The third time seemingly came in the 13th, when Kiermaier punched a two-out single to score automatic runner Wander Franco from second, Franco scampering home standing up just ahead of Austin Hays’ throw from left.
But the call was overturned after the Orioles challenged the play, negating Franco’s run and ending the inning. It wasn’t the evening’s only key play at home, or the Rays’ only questionable execution on the bases. It came back to bite them. A few minutes later, Odor’s homer sent everybody home for good.
“It looked like [Franco] got a good jump, a good read, but sometimes there is an argument you’ll be quicker running through the plate like he did,” Cash said of Franco’s non-slide. “I thought he was out both times [live and on replay]. His pant leg definitely moved.”
The bullpen bends
Innings: 10th, 11th
No team asks for more from its relievers in terms of workload than the Rays, who called on nine pitchers Friday and seven after Jalen Beeks and Ryan Yarbrough worked the first six-plus innings. Never, though, did Cash call on Andrew Kittredge, who the manager later revealed is dealing with a minor back issue after experiencing several rough outings.
Without Kittredge, scoreless innings from Jason Adam and Colin Poche sent the game to extras. Then tasked with preserving a two-run lead in the 10th, Matt Wisler walked his first two batters before coughing up Anthony Santander’s game-tying single. Ryan Thompson allowed the Orioles to tie the game again in the 11th, after Kiermaier pushed Tampa Bay ahead with an RBI single.
“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight, but unfortunately, we countered that with some things that weren’t ideal,” Cash said. “We had opportunities. We capitalized on some of them. Some of them we didn’t. The longer that lengthens out, you’re putting yourself behind, and ultimately they came up with a big hit.”
Phillips, with bat and arm
Innings: 5th, 10th
For a while, it looked like Brett Phillips might be the Rays’ hero of the night. Before Kiermaier’s clutch hits in the 11th and 13th, Phillips lined a go-ahead double in the 10th and wowed with his arm defensively several innings prior.
With the Rays looking to preserve a three-run lead in the fifth, Phillips uncorked a 99.7 mph throw from right field to cut Chris Owings down at home and keep Baltimore off the board. Phillips’ assist registered as the second hardest recorded in the Majors this season, behind a 101.6 mph strike from Cincinnati's Aristides Aquino.
Arozarena continued his dominance of Orioles pitching, collecting four hits and reaching base five times. But he paired that with costly blunders on the bases and in the field. The biggest came in the seventh, when Robinson Chirinos’ routine drive to left popped in and out of Arozarena’s glove. The two-base error cut the Rays’ lead to 3-2, and Trey Mancini’s two-out RBI single tied a game that the Rays had led 3-0 behind Mike Zunino’s three-run homer in the fifth.