ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After an opening five weeks to the season that included rain delays, irregular start times and early-morning flights, the Baltimore Orioles were looking forward to playing three night games with no risk of weather delays under the roof of Tropicana Field.
They didn’t account for a 19-minute, eighth-inning delay when a set of lights went out along a catwalk connected to the dome’s roof Tuesday night.
But when play resumed — the row of lights still out — the Orioles were finally sparked by a big hit they had lacked all night.
Second baseman Ryan Flaherty, making just his second start in 10 days, drove in the winning run with a single in a two-run eighth inning, giving the Orioles a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of an announced 11,855.
With the win, the Orioles (16-14) kept at least a share of first place in the American League East.
Flaherty’s single came after the Orioles were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Nick Markakis followed by beating out a potential double-play ball that scored an insurance run.
“It was nice to get up there in that situation and help the team win,” Flaherty said. “Any time you get up there with less than two outs and a guy on third base, you try to get him in.”
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman recorded just the team’s 10th quality start in 30 games this season, yielding three runs on five hits over six innings plus two batters. Tillman’s start was his deepest in nearly four weeks. He had allowed 13 earned runs over 15 1 / 3 innings over his previous three starts.
“He looked like a guy who hadn’t been sitting around for six days,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “He was a lot crisper and sharper.”
With slugging first baseman Chris Davis on the disabled list and catcher Matt Wieters — the Orioles’ best hitter of the first five weeks of the season — possibly following him there, the O’s batting order isn’t quite as imposing.
Even with Wieters, who is scheduled to visit orthopedist James Andrews on Wednesday for persistent soreness in his throwing arm, in the lineup as the team’s starting designated hitter, the Orioles’ lineup lacked punch on Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
The Orioles had plenty of opportunities to score on Tuesday, but stranded 10 base runners.
They had Rays starter Chris Archer on the ropes throughout the evening, but failed to break through against the struggling right-hander.
They loaded the bases with no outs in both the fourth and fifth innings, but managed to scrape just one run each time on a pair of sacrifice flies.
With the game tied at 2 in the fifth, they loaded the bases when Flaherty’s leadoff double to right was followed by a walk to Markakis and a single by Manny Machado.
But Archer struck out Nelson Cruz on a seven-pitch at-bat. Adam Jones’s sacrifice fly to center scored Flaherty, but Wieters ended the inning with a fly out to right.
After back-to-back singles by Cruz and Jones opened the fourth inning, Wieters hit a ball to second that shortstop Yunel Escobar dropped moving the ball to his throwing hand for an error.
They tied the game on J.J. Hardy’s sacrifice fly to left, but stranded two runners in scoring position when Steve Clevenger struck out and Steve Pearce grounded to third to end the inning.