BALTIMORE -- The Orioles did everything possible to set up their roster for their day-night doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday by making a pair of moves before their first game, including one to bring back flourishing pitching prospect Kevin Gausman.
Every position on the club's 25-man roster was important through the 18 innings of baseball and catcher Nick Hundley, making just his second start over the past week, played as important a role as anyone.
Hundley hit his first homer as an Oriole in the sixth inning that gave the Orioles the lead in a 4-1 nightcap win to salvage a split of the doubleheader. Nelson Cruz followed the next inning with his 25th homer of the season, an opposite-field two-run shot that tied him for the major league league with the Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion and Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.
Before Hundley, hitting just .195 since joining the club in a trade with the San Diego Padres five weeks ago, rescued a struggling Orioles offense with his homer, the Orioles stranded nine baserunners and were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Hundley's second-inning RBI single in the second was the team's only other hit with runners in scoring position.
With the split, the Orioles (42-37) gained a half game on first-place Toronto and are now 1 1/2 games behind back of the Blue Jays.
Despite losing the first game of the day, the Orioles have won eight of their 10 meetings this season with a struggling Tampa Bay team that owns the worst record in baseball.
Right-hander Chris Tillman recorded his fourth straight quality start in Game 2, holding Tampa Bay to one run on four hits over eight innings, overcoming a disappointing start from Gausman in a 5-2 loss in the first game of the doubleheader.
Tillman (7-4) has allowed just one run on eight hits over his past two starts, both wins, spanning over 15 innings of work and owns a 1.61 ERA over his past four outings. He has allowed one run or fewer in four of last six starts.
The club utilized a rule that allows it to add a 26th man for day-night doubleheaders to call up Gausman and start him in Game 1 before he served his mandatory 10-day option window.
But Gausman (3-2) struggled to duplicate the form he displayed over his previous three starts, issuing a career-high four walks and allowing five runs as he lasted just two batters into the sixth inning after throwing 95 pitches.
The Orioles, meanwhile recorded just three hits on the day as right-hander Alex Colome, who was making his first big league start of the year after opening the season serving a 50-game drug suspension, to two hits over 5 2/3 innings.
Gausman had allowed just three runs over his previous three starts spanning 19 innings as he recorded wins over division leaders Oakland and Toronto before shutting out the Rays over six innings in his last start last Friday in Tampa Bay.
Gausman was behind in the count for most of the afternoon, throwing 14 of 25 first-pitch balls and fell behind 2-0 on 10 batters. Gausman has been confident throwing his split-fingered changeup ahead in the count after establishing his mid 90s fastball. But finding his feel for both of those pitches was a challenge.
The Orioles had 10 baserunners – six hits and four walks--against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi in the night game, but plated just one run against him.
Odorizzi loaded the bases with one out in the fifth with a pair of walks and a single, but J.J. Hardy popped out in foul ground to Rays first baseman James Loney and David Lough struck out to end the inning.
But Tillman recovered nicely after a allowing a solo homer to Loney in the top of the second inning. After Loney's blast, Tillman allowed just three additional hits on the night, all singles.
He kept the game close until the Orioles bats could come alive. With the game tied at 1-1, Hundley opened the sixth by taking a 1-0 pitch just inside the left-field line to give the Orioles the lead.
Cruz then gave the Orioles a three-run cushion when he took a 2-1 pitch on the outside half of the plate the opposite way and into the right-field flag court.
Closer Zach Britton tossed a scoreless ninth for his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
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