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Orioles top Rays, 5-4, on Pat Valaika's walk-off single in 11th inning

The Baltimore Sun — By Jon Meoli The Baltimore Sun

Aug. 01-- BALTIMORE-Starting a runner on second base in extra innings was a rule change put in place for the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season to end games quickly and add some strategy.

It served no such purpose at Camden Yards on Saturday night, until the Orioles finally took advantage in the 11th inning on a walk-off single by Pat Valaika to give them a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The experience itself was unprecedented for the Orioles, who hadn't yet gone to extra innings under these rules. The baseball that followed would be unique anywhere.

Tampa Bay began the 10th inning with first baseman Ji-Man Choi at second base, but when Yoshi Tsutstugo hit a deep fly ball to the left-field warning track, Cedric Mullins caught it and threw Choi out tagging at third base.

Hanser Alberto began the 10th on second base for the Orioles and advanced on a groundout by Anthony Santander. But when Renato Nunez grounded to shortstop with the infield in, Alberto was running on contact and was out by 10 feet at home.

Some defensive changes in the 11th for the Orioles put players in unique spots, with third baseman Rio Ruiz in left field for the first time in his career and third catcher Bryan Holaday at first base for the first time in the majors since 2015.

Holaday made a diving catch on a line drive from Manuel Margot that would have easily scored Tampa Bay's runner with one out, and doubled him off second base to end the inning.

Convention, or as close to it as circumstances allow, took back over when Holaday began the 11th at second base, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Pedro Severino and scored on a single by Valaika.

The walk-off Saturday was the Orioles' second straight win over the visiting Rays, ensuring their second series win in three this year and continuing their trend of playing far better baseball than they did a year ago.

Wade LeBlanc, a week from his 36th birthday, kept the Rays at bay early as the Orioles felt their way through things with Cy Young aspirant and Rays starter Tyler Glasnow. The Orioles didn't have a hit until the fourth inning, when Nunez drilled his first home run of the season into the barren left-center-field seats. Dwight Smith Jr. singled and came around the score shortly thereafter.

That two-run lead stood until Mike Brosseau homered to open the sixth inning, continuing his odd dominance of the Orioles. It was his seventh career home run, and sixth against the Orioles.

LeBlanc yielded to Evan Phillips after 5 1/3 innings of one-run, four hit ball in line for his second win of the season. The Orioles added some cushion with a simple but productive sixth inning. Nunez walked and came around to score on a single by Pedro Severino. Dwight Smith Jr. singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rio Ruiz.

The Rays, though, clawed back. Phillips retired all five batters he faced but came out to open the seventh inning and allowed a leadoff single. His replacement Shawn Armstrong made an error on a potential double-play feed to second base and loaded the bases with a walk before Jose Martinez hit a bloop single to center field cut the lead to 4-2. Miguel Castro came in to let two of Armstrong's runs score.

Tanner Scott stranded a runner for Castro in the ninth with a strikeout. Travis Lakins Sr. picked up his first career win.

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