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Rays 2 Orioles 1: Small ball for the win

Rays take season opener.

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

If you watched a good sample of the Rays 18 wins over the Orioles last year you might have been surprised by this game. In contrast some of last year’s slugfests, this was a pitchers’ duel — multiple pitchers — with the Rays getting two old school runs by stringing together hits and sac flies.

Shane McClanahan was nasty but a bit inefficient, and he seemed to have some first inning jitters. His first pitch drilled Cedric Mullins in the shoulder at 97 mph. His third pitch was a hanging curve for a Mountcastle single. After a force out for out one, he walked Austin Hays. Kyle Snyder the pitcher whisperer visited the mound and Sugar Shane managed to get the next two outs.

The Orioles also got the lead off man on the second, this time with a single. McClanahan fell behind old friend Robinson Chirinos, but then came back to strike him out.

The Rays manufactured an old school run in the bottom of the third, stringing together three singles and a sac fly. They enjoyed that lead for just a few innings, when Santander tied it with a home run.

McClanahan had great stuff, striking out seven in 4.1 innings, often getting whiffs on balls out of the zone, and getting some helpful ground ball outs when he found himself in a jam. He was never going to go deep in the game — we had heard a pitch limit of about 75.

With McClanahan gone during and Means before the fifth inning we got to see a lot of relievers. Rays fans got used to seeing the team pulverize the Orioles bullpen last year. l don’t know if the Orioles pen has improved, the Rays offense has cooled, or one game means little, but the Orioles relievers have nothing to regret, even Paul Fry who had an ERA around infinity against the Rays last year was effective with the one batter he faced.

They did, however, yield one run in the eighth that proved to be the winning run. Wander reached on his third hit of the game (yeah, it will be fun having him for a full season). Ji Man Choi came up as a pinch hitter and had an at bat that must have taken half an hour, filled with throws to first, close pitches on the corners and ultimately a Ji Man walk. Randy hit a tapper down the third base line and Gutierrez just seemed a little slow in fielding it, so the Orioles went from seeming to have to settle for just the out at first to having to settle for bases loaded with no outs as Arozarena was credited with the infield single. But Wander was forced at home on B Lowe’s grounder; Kevin Cash went to switch hitting Mejia in place of Zunino (Brian Anderson informed us that the Orioles had no one warming in the bullpen so that Cash could make the switch without concern that a new pitcher would be brought in). Mejia delivered a sac fly to regain a 1 run lead.

On the Rays side, we saw Chargois, Wisler, Springs, Kittredge (sans beard!). Springs impressed (struck out the side). Kittredge had a few men on but held firm. He should really rethink the beard however! With Kittredge pitching the eighth, it was JP Feyereisen who was given the task of holding the one run lead. He got two outs and seemed to be cruising but then gave up an “excuse me” hit. He was replaced by new guy Brooks Raley who got that important last out.

Rays fans in midseason form:

Good for you Austin