Orioles take solo lead of AL East with 4-3 win over Rays

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Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Felix Bautista, right, celebrates with catcher Adley Rutschman after the Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game Thursday, July 20, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Baltimore Orioles are looking down at the rest of the AL East — and the All-Star break is in the rearview mirror.

Fun times for Colton Cowser and company.

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Cowser hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, and the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series between the American League’s top teams.

“I think tonight was a great team win,” Cowser said after his 11th major league game.

Baltimore started the day in first place for the first time after the All-Star break since Aug, 15, 2016. The Orioles, who were 6½ games back at the beginning of July, now have a one-game lead.

“It’s just July, that’s kind of where I’m at right now,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “This team (the Rays) is so good and so hard to play, especially here. We’ve been on the other side of those type of games I can’t tell you how many times.”

Aaron Hicks opened the 10th at second as the automatic runner. He advanced on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s sacrifice bunt and scampered home on Cowser’s fly ball to left against Robert Stephenson (1-4).

Félix Bautista (5-1) worked a perfect ninth for Baltimore and then stayed on for the 10th. He hit Luke Raley and struck out Randy Arozarena before Brandon Lowe bounced into a game-ending double play.

“How about Félix Bautista?” Hyde said. “I’m so lucky to have him. The reason why he pitched the 10th is because he had such an efficient ninth. ... He’s amazing.”

Orioles second baseman Ramón Urías helped keep the game tied in the eighth when he made a diving stop on pinch-hitter Harold Ramírez’s grounder with two on and threw him out at first.

Tampa Bay has lost five in a row. It is tied with Pittsburgh for the majors’ worst July record at 3-12.

The announced crowd, which included a sizable turnout of Orioles fans, was 20,203. Tampa Bay entered averaging 17,849 at home.

The Rays trailed 3-1 before rallying in the seventh. Taylor Walls singled and Christian Bethancourt reached on a bunt hit, ending Kyle Gibson’s night. Yandy Díaz then greeted Yennier Cano with a two-run double.

Baltimore had been in front since it scored three times in the fourth. Gunnar Henderson sparked the rally with some smart baserunning, racing into third for a leadoff triple when Arozarena lobbed a throw toward the infield after fielding the hit down the left-field line.

Adley Rutschman singled on Tyler Glasnow’s next pitch and later scored on Ryan O’Hearn’s sacrifice fly.

“It was tough to see," Arozarena said through a translator. “I think it was more my fault throwing the ball really soft.”

Baltimore took a 3-1 lead when Anthony Santander knocked the ball loose during a tag attempt by catcher Francisco Mejía after Aaron Hicks’ single. Mejía was charged with an error.

“Ugly, yeah,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the inning.

Tampa Bay had a runner in scoring position in each of the first five innings but scored just once on Mejía’s second-inning RBI single.

Glasnow struck out nine in seven innings. Gibson struck out eight in six-plus innings.

“That was a big win not because of the standings or anything," Gibson said. “It was big (because) it was the first game of the series and it set the tone.”


The Rays became the 26th MLB team to hit 900,000 in home attendance this season. Only Detroit, Kansas City, Miami and Oakland have failed to reach the mark.


Shintaro Fujinami, who was acquired by Baltimore in a trade with Oakland on Wednesday night, is expected to join the Orioles in the next couple days. The right-hander will work out of the bullpen.


Orioles: RHP Mychal Givens (right shoulder) is lightly throwing off a bullpen mound. … RHP Austin Voth (right elbow) worked a perfect inning for the rookie-level FCL Orioles.

Rays: Mejía departed with left knee discomfort. … RHP Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John surgery) went 1⅓ hitless innings for Triple-A Durham.


Orioles RHP Kyle Bradish (6-4) and Rays RHP Zach Eflin (10-5) are Friday night’s starters.


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