ST. PETERSBURG — The Baltimore Orioles knew they wasted a solid pitching performance in Friday night’s series opener against the Rays here at Tropicana Field. The Orioles’ arms allowed just two runs, but Baltimore was shut out for the eighth time this season.
But one of the things this Orioles team has done well is turning the page on the past — and considering they went into Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay hitless in their last 22 at bats with runners in scoring position — forgetting the follies of the night before would be a challenge.
The night before, the Orioles rationalized out loud about how they’d have to get out of their slump: Stop trying to swing out of their shoes, be satisfied with contact and have faith that their hits would find holes.
The Orioles offense bounced back against the Rays Saturday night — driving in all of their runs with two-out singles — for a 4-0 victory over Tampa Bay in front of an announced crowd of 20,612 at Tropicana Field.
Backed by seven shutout innings from left hander Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles didn’t need much offense. Chen held the Rays to five hits, giving the Orioles just their second quality start in their last 10 games.
The win put boosted the Orioles (56-51) into a tie with the Rays for second place in the AL East standings. Both teams are now 6½ games back of the division-leading Yankees heading into Sunday’s series rubber match.
After going 19 innings withing a hit with runners in scoring position – the O’s were 0-for-7 on Friday — the Orioles were 5 for 9 in those situations Saturday, scoring all four runs with two outs.
Chen, who struck out a career-high 12 in his last start, won a different way on Saturday. He had only four strikeouts but was still aggressive in the strike zone with his fastball and challenged the Rays to put the ball in play. Chen retired 10 of the first 11 Rays hitters he faced.
Chen won his third start in his last four outings. Over his five starts since the all-star break, the Taiwanese 27-year-old has pitched to a 1.95 ERA.
The Orioles jumped on Rays right hander Jeremy Hellickson, who exited early after laboring through a 31-pitch first inning.
Catcher Matt Wieters’s two-out single with runners on first and second in the first snapped the Orioles’ 0-for-22 slump with runners in scoring position.
Even after that, the Orioles stranded runners at second and third — and against a Rays team that owns a major league-best 2.40 ERA since the all-star break — the Orioles would have to capitalize on their opportunities.
But right fielder Nick Markakis, who has flourished in the leadoff spot, added another key two-out run-scoring hit in the second, a single that scored Nate McLouth, who hit a leadoff double in his first Orioles at bat.
The Orioles tacked on two more in the fourth on Chris Davis’s two-out bases-loaded single.