BALTIMORE — The Rays know what’s at stake this weekend. After spending nearly four months atop the American League East, they have spent the past eight weeks chasing the Orioles. These four days at Camden Yards represent Tampa Bay’s best chance to catch them.
The Rays struck first Thursday night, as Luke Raleigh’s walk-off single off Kyle Bradish with two outs in the seventh inning sent them to a 4-3 victory over the Orioles. The win moved Tampa Bay to just one game with Baltimore in the AL East standings.
This is the first time the Rays have been within a game for the division lead since the end of play on July 22, the day the Orioles broke a tie atop the AL East with a win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Thursday’s opener was as tight and tense as you’d expect a game between the AL’s best teams to be. Ryan O’Hearn put the Orioles on the board with a second-inning homer off Rays starter Aaron Civale, but Tampa Bay took the lead in the third on an RBI single by Brandon Lowe and a two-run triple by Randy Arozarena.
But the Orioles got back into the game. Gunnar Henderson went deep in the fourth inning, his 26th homer, then Baltimore used a pair of hits, a walk and a ground ball from Adam Frazier to score the tying run in the fifth inning without hitting a ball from the outfield. But Raleigh came through in the seventh, as Pradesh’s No. 96 of the night — a 3-1 slider in the zone — launched a projected 409-footer to center field for his first home run since Aug. 24.
The Rays protected that narrow lead. Colin Bucci, Sean Armstrong, Robert Stephenson, and Pete Fairbanks pitched four scoreless frames, extending the bullpen’s streak without allowing an earned run to 34 innings, dating back to September 4.
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