ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Miguel Gonzalez’s margin for error was small, and he exceeded it by walking the first two Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth inning.
Desmond Jennings made the Baltimore pitcher pay with a three-run home run, and the Rays went on to beat the Orioles 5-1 in a matchup of exhausted teams on Saturday to maintain their lead in the AL wild-card race.
“I put myself in a bad situation. You can’t be doing that, especially late in the game,” Gonzalez said. “I thought it was a good pitch (to Jennings), but you’ve just got to tip your hat.”
Jennings drove in four runs, and Alex Cobb took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning just hours after the longest game in the history of both franchises.
The first pitch on Saturday was thrown four minutes short of 11 hours after the Rays’ 5-4, 18-inning win over Baltimore that ended at 2:05 a.m. That game stretched on for 6:54. The breezed through on Saturday, in comparison, by playing only 2:51.
Tampa Bay (85-69) moved one game ahead of Cleveland (84-70), which entered Saturday in the second wild-card position. The Orioles (81-73) dropped three games behind the Indians, and Baltimore has other teams in front of them.
The Orioles never threatened Cobb (10-3) until the ninth inning when Chris Davis tripled and scored on Adam Jones’ single. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter minimized the effect of Friday night’s game.
“You’d be taking something away from Cobb,” Showalter said. “He’s pitched really well, and nobody is rested at this time of year. I think it was more Cobb than anything. He’s got command of that changeup, to both left and right-handed hitters. He’s impressive.”
Cobb didn’t allow a hit until Steve Clevenger lined a single to right with two outs in the fifth. He struck out 12.
“He was pretty much unhittable,” Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth said. “With that split finger, he can get someone with weak contact, and he’s got pitches he can put you away with. So you go up there wanting to get him early but the ball moves so much, it’s hard to get good contact.”
The ninth-inning run snapped Baltimore’s streak of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. McLouth also didn’t use Friday’s loss as an excuse.
“There was probably nobody on that field who wasn’t feeling that game last night, but it didn’t have an effect on the outcome,” he said. “Certainly everybody on that field was a little tired.”
Fernando Rodney completed the five-hitter by getting two outs.
Pitching six days after straining his groin in a victory at Toronto, Gonzalez (10-8) gave up three runs, two hits and five walks in six innings.
“I think everybody knows he pitched pretty well, all things considered,” Showalter said. “There wasn’t going to be a whole lot of run-scoring opportunities the way Cobb’s been pitching, as well as anybody in the American League, really. You have to have a well-pitched game against them.”
Jennings added an RBI triple in the seventh and scored on Ben Zobrist’s single off Francisco Rodriguez.
Eleven players who went the distance Friday came back to start Saturday: Baltimore’s Davis, Jones, Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy and Danny Valencia, and Tampa Bay’s Zobrist, DeJesus, Escobar, Wil Myers and Evan Longoria. Baltimore’s Matt Wieters, who caught all 18 innings, was rested.
Someone jokingly wrote “Early hitting 7 a.m.” on the message board in Tampa Bay’s clubhouse Saturday morning.
NOTES: Baltimore recalled LHPs Mike Belfiore and Zach Britton from Triple-A Norfolk. … Tampa Bay recalled LHP Jeff Beliveau from Triple-A Durham. … Wil Myers went 0 for 8 Friday and became the first Tampa Bay player to go hitless in eight or more at-bats in one game. The rookie went 0 for 4 on Saturday.
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