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Orioles win in extras, overtake Rays as best team in AL East

It’s definitely been a July to forget for Tampa Bay.
 
Rays third baseman Isaac Paredes looks for the ball as Orioles centerfielder Aaron Hicks touches safely in the 10th inning at Tropicana Field on Thursday night. Hicks went on to score the winning run for Baltimore.
Rays third baseman Isaac Paredes looks for the ball as Orioles centerfielder Aaron Hicks touches safely in the 10th inning at Tropicana Field on Thursday night. Hicks went on to score the winning run for Baltimore. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published July 21, 2023|Updated July 21, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays took hold of the division after the second game of the season. For 97 days they led the American League East and then Thursday night the Orioles knocked them out.

Taking advantage of the Rays’ defensive mistakes and offensive woes, Baltimore outlasted the Rays 4-3 in 10 innings in front of 20,203 at Tropicana FIeld.

The Orioles now hold sole possession of first place in the division.

The Rays (60-40) dropped their fifth straight game and have lost 12 of 15. They are tied with the Pirates for the worst record in the month of July (3-12). Baltimore (59-37) has won 11 of its last 15 games and extended its season-high road winning streak to six straight. This is the first time the Orioles have held first place in the AL East after the All-Star break since August 2016.

“There’s still like a lot of season left,” Rays starter Tyler Glasnow said. “We were in first for so long. So I think, like, when you do come out of it, it’s more of a thing. But I think we’re just kind of in one of those season ruts right now. It’s just such a long season. And we have such a good team that I’m confident that it will turn around.”

Glasnow pitched very well over seven innings, his longest outing since June 2021. He allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits. He struck out nine and did not walk a batter.

It’s the Rays’ offense that has to start that turnaround — and soon.

They went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. They had runners in scoring position in each of the first five innings and just one run — on a Francisco Mejia single in the second inning — to show for it.

Randy Arozarena loses the grip on his bat in the fifth inning against the Orioles.
Randy Arozarena loses the grip on his bat in the fifth inning against the Orioles. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Randy Arozarena struck out three times with at least a runner on second base. He stranded six base runners. Over his last 20 games, the All-Star leftfielder is 14-for-76 (.184) with 23 strikeouts, three home runs and seven RBIs.

“His timing’s not on. I mean, I think that’s very fair to say. When you’re not feeling it at the plate ... the way it looks right now, he’s just in between,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “If he’s got a slider in the back of his mind, he’s getting a fastball, and vice versa. Swinging at balls and maybe taking some strikes. Just not seeing it.

“But we know as well as anybody, having Randy, that he can get really hot. It’s not too predictive of what’s going to take place for him, so I’m confident he’ll come right back out and play good (Friday).”

The 50 runs that the Rays have scored in 15 games in July are the fewest of any American League team. They have just three more than the Rockies, the worst in baseball this month.

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“I mean, look, a little bit more of the same of what we’ve seen,” Cash said of his struggling lineup. “I thought (Orioles’ starter Kyle) Gibson, he’s tough. He’s pitched us really tough for many reasons. Ultimately, it’s because of his pitch-ability. He’s got four or five different pitches that he’ll throw at any time and just kept us off-balance enough.”

The Rays defense isn’t helping either.

Rays catcher Francisco Mejia (21) attempts to tag out Orioles first baseman Anthony Santander (25) as he slides into home plate to score a run in the fourth inning.
Rays catcher Francisco Mejia (21) attempts to tag out Orioles first baseman Anthony Santander (25) as he slides into home plate to score a run in the fourth inning. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

They almost got out of the 10th inning when Christian Bethancourt’s throw to beat Aaron Hicks back to the bag, but Isaac Paredes dropped the ball.

Baltimore scored all three runs in the fourth inning by taking advantage of the Rays’ defense. Gunnar Henderson led off with a triple that tipped off Tyler Walls’ glove, then sent Walls and Arozarena into a series of miscues. Walls followed the ball and then tried to recover to third, but stopped and allowed him to advance.

“That was kind of a weird play. Looking back at it now, I think I definitely could have done a better job of getting up and being a little more assertive and seeing it and trying to book it and get back,” Walls said. “And then that play probably doesn’t happen.”

Adley Rutschman singled on a ground ball to rightfield, allowing Henderson to score. Anthony Santander singled and the runners advanced on a wild pitch. Henderson scored on a sacrifice fly to left, beating an off-the-mark throw by Arozarena. Hicks singled on a ground ball to left, and Santander scored when Mejia dropped the ball on a tag at the plate.

The defensive mistakes weren’t as noticeable when the Rays were winning.

“Those plays definitely did happen. I mean, they may not have cost us or we might not have gotten penalized the way we’ve gotten penalized now,” Walls said. “I guess more so they are exposed more so now. It’s just baseball.”

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