|Date of game: 9/23/2013
Recap: Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore
St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - James Loney's pinch-hit solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning capped a late rally that propelled the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles and a four-game series sweep at Tropicana Field.
The Rays had previously battled back from a 4-2 deficit by scoring twice in the seventh, and Loney's liner into the seats off Tommy Hunter (6-5) sent the Orioles to a deflating loss that has the club's playoff hopes hanging by a thread.
Baltimore, which has now dropped five in a row overall, trails Cleveland by five games for the AL's second wild card spot with just six remaining.
"Crazier things have happened," said an upbeat Orioles manager Buck Showalter afterward. "We'll see where baseball takes us."
The Orioles suffered another damaging setback during the game, as All-Star third baseman Manny Machado had to be carted off the field after injuring his left leg during the seventh inning.
"That's really where my heart is right now, regardless of the way the game ended," Showalter remarked.
Wil Myers went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the win, which put the Rays a game above the Indians atop the wild card standings. Jose Molina also had two hits, including a run-scoring double.
Machado had gone 2-for-4 with a run scored prior to exiting, while Chris Davis clubbed his 52nd homer of the season -- a two-run shot in the fourth inning -- for Baltimore. Brian Roberts added a solo homer in defeat.
Baltimore was holding a 4-2 lead when Machado started the seventh with his second single of the game, but the 21-year-old stepped awkwardly while rounding first base and had his left knee buckle as he fell to the ground. Play was halted for several minutes as the Orioles' training staff attended to the young standout and eventually removed him from the field on a cart.
"It's horrible," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Machado's injury. "You hate to see that. This is a young man, tremendous talent. He's got a joy for the game too, so you hate to see that happen."
Machado's replacement, Alexi Casilla, later overslided home plate and was tagged out on a Nick Markakis single to negate a potential insurance run and end the top of the seventh.
Baltimore received some more bad luck in the bottom of the frame. The Rays loaded the bases with two out against Darren O'Day on a pair of walks and a Ben Zobrist single, and Myers lifted a blooper into short right field. Casilla initially made a leaping catch from second base, but had the ball pop out of his glove after his head struck Markakis' knee when colliding with the right fielder.
Jose Lobaton and Zobrist both came home on the play to knot the score at 4-4.
It remained that way until Loney laced the second pitch he saw from Hunter just inside the right-field foul pole to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
Joel Peralta (3-8), the last of six Tampa relievers that combined to throw 4 2/3 scoreless innings, earned the win after firing a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. Rays starter Chris Archer lasted just 4 1/3 innings and surrendered four runs despite striking out seven.
Archer had set down seven straight hitters after a two-out walk to Davis in the top of the first inning until Machado singled to open the fourth with Baltimore down 1-0. Davis then crushed a hanging slider over the wall in straightaway center to put the Orioles ahead.
Baltimore tacked on one more run in the fourth, as Markakis singled two batters after Davis' blast and eventually scored on J.J. Hardy's two-out hit to left.
The Rays pulled within 3-2 in the bottom of the inning after Tim Beckham singled with two out and Molina followed with a long double off the wall in left center against Wei-Yin Chen. However, Roberts restored Baltimore's two- run edge with a line-drive homer to right to begin the fifth.
Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 draft who was making his first career major league start, collected his first RBI in the bigs with a sacrifice fly in the second inning. The out brought home Myers, who opened Tampa's half of the frame with a single, moved to second on a walk and advanced another base on a fielder's choice grounder.
Chen was removed after permitting two runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings.Game Notes
Casilla at first stayed in the game following the collision with Markakis, but
departed midway through the eighth inning ... Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings
did not play after leaving Sunday's game with tightness in his left hamstring,
but third baseman Evan Longoria (flu) returned to the lineup and went 0-for-3
... Tampa Bay pitcher Alex Cobb was named the AL's Player of the Week on
Monday after going 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 22 strikeouts over two starts ...
The Rays won for only the second time in nine games when Archer fails to pitch
six innings ... The Rays completed their home schedule with a 51-30 record,
third-best in franchise history, while the Orioles finished 39-42 on the road.