BALTIMORE (AP) — Fittingly, it was two rookies who snapped the Baltimore Orioles out of their brief funk.
Grayson Rodriguez pitched eight outstanding innings, Gunnar Henderson homered and drove in three runs, and the Orioles secured a potentially crucial tiebreaker in the AL East with an 8-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.
The Orioles extended their streak to 87 consecutive series of at least two decisions without being swept. They also snapped a four-game skid that equaled their season high.
“Everybody showed up ready to play ball,” Rodriguez said. “We hadn’t really run into a stretch like this, but I don’t think you could really tell that from the guys. Attitudes didn’t change. Everybody was still confident in their ability to go out there and win a baseball game.”
After losing the first two of this four-game set, the Orioles (92-56) moved a game ahead of second-place Tampa Bay (92-58) and clinched the season series against the Rays. That means if the teams finish tied for first in the division, Baltimore would win.
Whoever wins tomorrow’s series finale between the Orioles and Rays will clinch a playoff berth, and it’s possible both teams could.
Rodriguez (6-4) has been sharp since returning from the minors in mid-July, looking like the highly touted prospect he was at the beginning of the season. He allowed five hits in a career-high eight innings, striking out seven without a walk.
Tyler Glasnow (9-6) yielded six runs and eight hits in four innings. It was his shortest outing of the season and the second time in three starts against the Orioles he failed to complete five innings.
“He was a little out of sync early on, and then the Orioles, they capitalized. It’s a really good offense over there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “When they got some guys on base, it felt like their lineup got some momentum.”
Henderson set the tone right away. The rookie infielder led off the bottom of the first with a first-pitch single to center field and eventually scored on Ryan O’Hearn’s single to left.
“What he’s doing as a rookie is pretty amazing,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Really all year, I’ve just been so impressed by him.”
After Adam Frazier’s RBI single with two outs in the second, Henderson swung at the first pitch again and hit his 27th homer, a two-run shot to right-center.
“I felt like I just knew what I was looking for and came out and was able to get it early,” Henderson said. “Luckily, I didn’t miss it.”
Henderson added an RBI single in the fourth to make it 5-0, and Adley Rutschman — last year’s rookie star for the Orioles — followed with a run-scoring single of his own. Cedric Mullins and Ramón Urías hit RBI singles in the fifth.
Henderson scored two runs and has 91 on the season. He tied and then surpassed Cal Ripken Jr.’s team record for a rookie.
Erasmo Ramírez allowed two runs in the fifth, including the first earned run yielded by Tampa Bay’s bullpen since Sept. 4. … Tampa Bay’s streak of four or fewer earned runs allowed in 11 consecutive games also ended.
Tampa Bay put INF Taylor Walls on the paternity list and selected the contract of INF Tristan Gray from Triple-A Durham. The Rays recalled INF Greg Jones (right hamstring strain) from Durham and placed him on the 60-day injured list.