BALTIMORE — What the Rays didn’t win on Saturday wasn’t that big of a deal.
They’ll have another chance Sunday, weather permitting, or later next week at home to clinch a playoff spot for the fifth straight season.
It was what they lost in the 8-0 defeat by the Orioles that mattered more.
• The share of first place the Rays had regained by winning the first two games of the series. In dropping to 92-58, the Rays fell a game behind the 92-56 O’s.
• The chance to win the season series, and the tiebreaker that goes with it, as the Orioles have that clinched with a 7-5 advantage and just the one game left. That means any lead the Orioles have is essentially one game larger.
• The momentum advantage the Rays had in winning three straight and seven of eight, while the Orioles has lost four in a row and five of six.
The challenge for the Rays is to quickly move Saturday night’s disappointment — the rough start by Tyler Glasnow, the offense being shut down by rookie Grayson Rodriguez, the bounces that went against them.
Even a freak pre-game accident, in which Luke Raley, who was to start in rightfield, and Manny Navarro, the Spanish language interpreter who also helps the hitting coaches, collided chasing a ball during batting practice. Raley was scratched from the lineup and said to be shaken up but available off the bench.
“You can’t dwell on any losses at this point,” veteran second baseman Brandon Lowe said. “Kind of seemed like even the baseball wanted the Orioles to win, just the way that outs came for them versus for us.
“It is what it is. We lost, they won. We’ve got another big game Sunday.”
The Orioles quickly showed Saturday would be different than the previous two nights, jumping on Glasnow for four runs in the first two innings and six total over the four he worked. This was his shortest outing of the season, matched the most hits he had given up (eight, including a two-run homer by rookie Gunnar Henderson), and ended his streak of throwing at least six innings in 10 straight games.
“Just not a very good start,” Glasnow said. “I think just leaving stuff over the plate and not kind of executing on corners or anything like that. Slider stayed up. Heater stayed up. Just easy, hittable pitches.”
Glasnow said he was a bit off mechanically at the start, and manager Kevin Cash said it showed.
“Just couldn’t find that rhythm,” Cash said. “He was a little out of synch early on. And then the Orioles, they capitalized. It’s a really good offense over there. We were fortunate enough to kind of keep them quiet (Friday). They had other plans. And when they got some guys on base, it felt like their lineup got some momentum, created some momentum, had good at-bats and came up with some big hits.”
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As opposed to the Rays, who where shut out (for the seventh time this season) and shut down by Rodriguez, the hard-throwing 23-year-old, over eight innings, managing just five hits. Making it worse was an Orioles defense that turned several balls into outs.
“(Rodriguez) had his ‘A’ game tonight,” said Josh Lowe, who replaced Raley in the lineup. “I know he’s been one of their big prospects for a time, now he’s starting to make a name for himself in the big leagues. He just had it all working tonight. And he made some good pitches.”
Most notably the changeup with runners on the corners and one out in the fourth to Josh Lowe, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.
“Probably the biggest pitch that he made of the game,” Cash said.
The Rays came into Saturday with a two-step path to clinch a playoff spot, an equation made more complicated by the number of teams in the race and the amount of head-to-head games remaining.
Per Major League Baseball, the Rays were in if they won and either the Rangers (playing at the Guardians) or the Mariners (hosting the Dodgers late) lost. The Rangers did lose.
Now, whoever wins between the Rays and Orioles on Sunday will clinch a playoff spot. But the more important AL East title, and the first-round bye that comes with it, won’t be, likely for a while.
“I think everybody knew that from the start,” Brandon Lowe said. “So it’s a great series and everything, but the division is not going to be decided here.”
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