BALTIMORE — Before the call was even made, Austin Hays and his Orioles teammates were already leaving the field. He, as well as just about everyone inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards, knew the ruling would be overturned.
Hays had thrown a seed from left field to home plate, and catcher Anthony Bemboom applied the tag to Wander Franco. The initial call — which would’ve given the Tampa Bay Rays a 13th-inning lead — signaled Franco safe. But left-hander Nick Vespi left the mound moments later with two scoreless innings under his belt, in part thanks to Hays’ arm. But there was an even larger part: Vespi’s slider.
On a day many expected catcher Adley Rutschman — the top prospect in baseball — to make his Orioles debut, the major league debut for Vespi stole the headlines. It was his 20 sliders that drew seven whiffs, and his two innings that shut the door on the Rays.
And if not for that laser from Hays to seal the last of those two scoreless innings from Vespi, there wouldn’t have been the deep shot into the night from second baseman Rougned Odor, sealing the 8-6 victory for Baltimore with a second walk-off in as many days.
The Orioles (16-24) had thrice faced deficits and thrice overcame them — first in the seventh, then in the 10th and then in the 11th. But for all the comebacks, they couldn’t produce the winning run until the 13th, when Odor blasted a cutter to the flag court beyond the right field fence.
He knew it was gone, too. As did his teammates. For as quickly as the Orioles left the field during the review of Hays’ throw home, they spilled back out moments later in jubilation, throwing Gatorade on Odor as he crossed the plate.
The victory broke a string of 15 straight Rays wins over the Orioles, although Tampa Bay still has taken 27 of the last 30 matchups between the clubs.
Cruising through four
Until the fifth, it had all gone so swimmingly for right-hander Tyler Wells. He had walked his first batter since April 21, but that first-inning miscue hardly mattered. The 27-year-old went on to retire the next 10 batters he faced.
But when that fifth inning began, Wells’ no-hit bid promptly ended on an infield single to shortstop from Randy Arozarena. And after his second walk, catcher Mike Zunino caught a high four-seam fastball and lifted it to deep left, where it careened off the foul pole for a three-run homer. After one more batter, Wells withdrew with a season-high 79 pitches.
It might not have been as efficient as other starts — Wells found himself in six three-ball counts — but he limited Tampa Bay for much of his 4 2/3 innings. Wells gave up two hits, walked two and struck out four.
He handed off a game that was well within reach, as the seventh inning proved. And the bullpen held that score to push the game to extras, with left-hander Keegan Akin completing two scoreless innings — as he’s done in each of his first 11 relief appearances, setting a franchise record.
When Joshua Davis Kelsey learned his friends wanted to go to an Orioles game, his mind immediately jumped to what Friday could bring. In his group chat, Kelsey texted: “Adley Rutschman might be coming up from the minors that day … sold out stadium for sure.”
That wasn’t to be. When Friday arrived — just as when Monday rolled around — Rutschman wasn’t in Baltimore. He was in Charlotte with Triple-A Norfolk, on the bench after catching three straight days for the Tides.
“Tonight was the night!” Kelsey yelled outside Pickles Pub before the game, enjoying a bucket of Bud Light to himself despite lamenting a missed opportunity to see Rutschman. The 27-year-old from Catonsville isn’t alone in that disappointment, either, among the 15,127 fans at Camden Yards.
There’s little certainty around when Rutschman might make his long-awaited major league debut. For now, that wait continues.©2022 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.