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Rays 4, Orioles 3: Nail-biter in Baltimore

Rays’ bullpen throws four perfect innings and Luke Raley’s late-inning homer guide Rays to series-opening win

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, this is pennant chase baseball.

Tampa Bay came into tonight’s contest two games behind the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, so the next four games on both the familiar foes’ schedule loom large.

Both teams can clinch postseason berths this weekend, with the Rays’ magic number for a postseason spot at five, and the Orioles’ at three.

As far as the division goes, this series looms large. The winner of the American League East most likely will receive a first round bye, and the second-place team will have to play a three-game series during Wild Card weekend.

Aaron Civale would toe the rubber for the Rays, going five innings while giving up three earned runs and striking out eight.

Baltimore would open up the scoring in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo blast from cleanup hitter Ryan O’Hearn.

Tampa Bay answers with some instant offense of its own in the top of the 3rd, with Brandon Lowe singling home Luke Raley, and Randy Arozarena tripling to drive home both Lowe and Yandy Diaz. 3-1 Rays.

Rookie of the Year hopeful Gunnar Henderson hit a solo shot in the bottom of the 4th to close the gap to 3-2.

The Orioles would muster up more offense of their own, as Cedric Mullins and Jordan Westburg would. both bunt and Aaron Hicks would walk to load the bases, and Adam Frazier would ground into a fielder’s choice to plate the game tying run.

In the 7th, Luke Raley homered off Kyle Bradish for the eventual game-winner to bring the score to 4-3.

Colin Poche, Shawn Armstrong, and Robert Stephenson would be the bridge to Pete Fairbanks, who shut the door with three straight strikeouts on fastballs of 100 MPH to earn the save.

The Rays now sit just 1.0 game back of Baltimore with a weekend full of head-to-head matchups, most notably tomorrow at 7:05 PM EST on Apple TV+. Tomorrow’s probable starting pitchers are Zach Eflin for Tampa Bay, and Jack Flaherty for Baltimore.