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Rays 3, Orioles 0: Losing is for the Birds

Zach Eflin dominated on the mound, sparking the Rays’ crucial shutout victory against the Orioles.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The struggle bus has come to at least a pause.

The Tampa Bay Rays started the day in second place for the first time in the AL East after losing five straight and 12 of their 15 July games. None of that matters for the moment, as they ended the day being the first team to shut out the Baltimore Orioles this season.

The game's first breakthrough came in the bottom of the 2nd inning when Brandon Lowe stepped up and ripped a double into right field. Harold Ramirez followed Lowe's double with a ground-ball single to center field, allowing Lowe to cross the plate, giving the Rays an early 1-0 lead.

On the mound for the Orioles, Kyle Bradish grappled with command, as seen by a wild pitch that allowed Ramirez to advance to 2nd base. However, Bradish was able to collect himself, leading to a strikeout of Jose Siri and a flyout from Christian Bethancourt, limiting the Rays to a single run.

Bradish's control issues surfaced again in the bottom of the 5th inning. After a flyout from Bethancourt to start the inning, Yandy Diaz drew a walk off Bradish. The Orioles pitcher threw his second wild pitch of the night, enabling Diaz to advance to second base. Another ball in the dirt with Diaz as third almost made things exciting, but Yandy decided to remain on base instead of forcing the defense to make a challenging play. Fortunately for Bradish and the Orioles, the pitches did not lead to any additional runs, with the following two Rays batters making outs to conclude the inning.

The Orioles' offense, however, couldn't muster any momentum as Zach Eflin was too strong. Eflin pitched seven shutout innings, inducing numerous outs through grounders and an array of strikeouts, highlighting his impressive command and pitch selection.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Rays widened their lead. After Randy Arozarena grounded out thanks to a phenomenal play by Gunnar Henderson, Isaac Paredes launched a home run (EV 100.8 mph, LA 33 deg, 397 feet) to left-center field, increasing the Rays' lead to 2-0. The inning concluded quietly with a couple of groundouts following the home run.

The 7th inning saw another pivotal moment for the Rays. The Orioles switched pitchers, bringing in Shintaro Fujinami to replace Kyle Bradish. Jose Siri is not a gracious host as he greeted Fujinami's first pitch by smashing a solo home run (EV 99.9 mph, LS 38 deg, 359) to left field, taking the score to 3-0 in favor of the Rays. Siri reacted as if it was a no-doubt home run that cleared the left-field fence by just enough.

Fujinami gained his composure, striking out Wander Franco to end the inning.

When the late innings arrived, it was time for the Rays' bullpen to pick up where Eflin left off. Relievers Colin Poche and Pete Fairbanks took over the mantle, ensuring the Orioles' offense remained dormant. Poche's 8th inning was nothing short of perfection as he struck out all three batters he faced. Fairbanks followed suit in the 9th, allowing a solitary walk to Adley Rutschman but swiftly dealing with the rest of the Orioles lineup.

Tonight's game was a reminder that pitching and defense can still be a recipe for the Rays' victories. On Fridays, the team is now 8-1 in their Devil Rays uniforms as the throwback threads.

Tomorrow the Rays have an opportunity to secure at least a split of the series as LHP Shane McClanahan (11-1, 2.56) takes the mound for the Rays opposite. RHP Grayson Rodriguez (2-2, 7.33).