Orioles Pull Within One Game Of First In AL East

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Manny Machado’s best praise is often reserved for his defense, but his bat showed up in a big way Tuesday night with a grand slam in the fourth inning, leading the Baltimore Orioles to an 11-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

“When you start talking about MVPs, they’ve got to talk about him, too,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Just all-around, it’s been an honor to sit there and watch him play every day. He had a lot of good at-bats to set that situation up.”

The Orioles (76-62) have won four of their last five, pulling within one game of first-place Toronto in the American League East. The Rays (58-79) have dropped three straight as they close out a six-game homestand on Wednesday afternoon.

Machado’s blast made a winner of Orioles starter Yovani Gallardo (5-7), who had been winless in his previous five turns (0-4), with one win in his previous 12 going back to the start of July.

Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (9-6) came in with the American League’s best ERA since the All-Star break with three or fewer earned runs in nine straight starts, but matched a season high with seven runs allowed.

“We faced one of the better pitchers in the American League today,” Showalter said. “He had like eight pitches in the first inning, then before you know it, there were a lot of good at-bats … we wore him down a little bit.”

The Orioles bullpen was superb, combining for four innings of scoreless, two-hit relief, and the big lead allowed Baltimore to rest their top relievers. Baltimore added a solo home run by Adam Jones — his 26th of the year — in the eighth, and two runs in the ninth off reliever Enny Romero.

The teams traded solo home runs in the first two innings — Logan Forsythe led off the bottom of the first with his 18th for the Rays, and Chris Davis answered in the second with his 35th of the season to make it 1-1.

Odorizzi loaded the bases in the fourth, giving up a single to Davis, then walking Matt Wieters and hitting Jonathan Schoop. J.J. Hardy, hitting ninth in the batting order, came through with a two-run double down the left-field line for a 3-1 lead.

With two outs, another walk loaded the bases again, and Machado hit his 34th home run to make it 7-1. Odorizzi threw 38 pitches in the inning and was done afterward, finishing with 89 pitches in four innings.

“I think you could tell fairly early on that Odo didn’t quite have all his weapons tonight,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve seen him so good here as of late. Tonight he just didn’t have his best feel for the changeup.”

The Rays cut the lead to 7-2 on a throwing error by Machado in the fourth.

Gallardo allowed two runs (one earned), five hits and a walk while striking out five in five innings.

“Gallardo kept us off balance, similar approach to what Ubaldo (Jimenez) did last night,” Cash said. “Lot of strikes, attacking the zone, mixing speeds. And it was a fairly quiet night.”

Davis left the game with what Showalter said was a minor hand injury, an existing problem with his left palm that has bothered him for a while but wasn’t likely to sideline him from Wednesday’s series finale.

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