ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo had already made magic happen once, starting behind second base in a shift, charging down a dribbler on the right side and beating Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Brandon Lowe to first with a flip of his glove.
It took a replay for the umpires to correctly rule Lowe out, preserving the no-hit bid for starter Austin Voth through four innings. But for all Mateo’s efforts, there was nothing to be done about the chopper between third base and shortstop to begin the sixth. He got to the ball deep in the hole, flung the ball toward first and watched as Jose Siri safely reached base.
With that, Voth’s bid for major league history ended. And soon after, his shutout disappeared, leaving the yard in a hurry on a two-run home run off Randy Arozarena’s bat.
But even with that ambivalent ending for Voth, his outing on the whole was a major statement for a rotation expecting the possible addition of left-hander DL Hall. And the 10-3 win served as a launching pad for Baltimore during the first game of its most significant series since 2016 — the last time this organization found itself in a playoff hunt.
With a win Friday at Tropicana Field, the Orioles (59-53) moved a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay (58-53) and took sole possession of the third and final American League wild-card spot. They can create more distance over the remainder of the weekend, as well as in a series against the Toronto Blue Jays (60-51) next week.
It started with Voth, who flew ahead to St. Petersburg to prepare Thursday. It continued with Mateo’s defense and his first-career five-hit game, part of a season-high 19-hit onslaught. And it went further with rookie catcher Adley Rutschman’s first-inning homer and Cedric Mullins’ eighth-inning bomb, which both caromed off the catwalk high atop the field.
Voth found success with his curveball, forcing seven whiffs on 17 swings, according to Statcast. He relied mostly on that pitch and his four-seam fastball to carve through the Rays’ lineup, surrendering his first base runner in the fourth inning. A throwing error from Ramón Urías in the fifth kept the no-hit bid intact, and Voth completed five for the fourth time this season.
The path here has been turbulent, with the Washington Nationals designating Voth for assignment before Baltimore claimed him off waivers in June. He found his way into the starting rotation, and his ninth start of the season was his best yet.
It unraveled in the sixth after he waited in the dugout for an extended period of time as the Orioles scored four runs in the top half on singles from Rougned Odor, Mateo and Mullins, as well as a sacrifice fly from Urías.
Siri, the first batter of the sixth, reached base with that seeing-eye infield single, and Arozarena got the Rays on the board when he launched a curveball to left that caught just enough of the plate.