Orioles 5, Devil Rays 4

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Chris Britton backed up his claim to his manager and earned his first major league save.

Britton pitched a perfect ninth to complete three scoreless innings by the struggling Baltimore bullpen and the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo asked Britton if he could handle the closer role and the right-hander told him “Believe it.”

“I was giving him a chance to live up to his word,” Perlozzo said with a smile.

The Orioles’ bullpen entered the game with a 5.27 ERA. In addition, closer Chris Ray was not available after working 3 1-3 innings over the previous two games.

“It didn’t change my approach,” Britton said. “I just tried to stay the same and go right after them. Honestly, I put the save opportunity in the back of my mind. I just went out there and tried to get another inning done.”

Ramon Hernandez’s RBI double highlighted a four-run fifth inning, helping Baltimore extend the Devil Rays’ season-high losing streak to nine games.

Nick Markakis and Jay Gibbons had RBI singles to tie it at 3 before Hernandez matched Baltimore’s team record for RBIs by a catcher. Chris Hoiles had 82 in 1993.

David Newhan walked with the bases loaded later in the inning to make it 5-3.

Adam Loewen (6-5) allowed four runs and six hits over six innings.

“He struggled with his command of his fastball most of the night,” Perlozzo said. “The one good thing about Adam, he’s smart enough to know what pitches to go to when his fastball is not there.”

LaTroy Hawkins, who hadn’t pitched since straining his right groin on Sept. 2, struck out Tampa Bay’s Shawn Riggans with runners on second and third and two outs in the eighth.

The Devil Rays are 3-for-19 over the past two games with runners in scoring position, and hitting .245 overall in that department.

“The runner in scoring position phenomenon is really eating us alive,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.

Jorge Cantu hit a solo homer during a three-run second that put the Devil Rays ahead 3-0. Loewen had faced 216 batters—since Cantu hit a grand slam on July 21—without allowing a homer.

B.J. Upton had an infield RBI single and Ben Zobrist hit a run-scoring triple in the second for the Devil Rays. Tampa Bay has lost 56 times after taking a lead, one from the AL record set by Detroit in 2002.

Damon Hollins got Tampa Bay within 5-4 with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Baltimore loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but scored just one run when Chris Gomez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an RBI single.

Rookie Jason Hammel (0-4) gave up five runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings. Three of his losses have been to Baltimore.

“I made some good pitches to get groundballs that could have been outs,” Hammel said. “Then the balls they hit were hard.”

Tampa Bay first baseman Ty Wigginton appeared to lose count of the outs in the second. With Gibbons on first and two outs, Corey Patterson hit a grounder near the base. Instead of taking the easy out at first, Wigginton threw the ball to Zobrist at second for the inning-ending out.

After Zobrist made an unnecessary late return to throw to first, several of the Devil Rays briefly remained on the field until realizing the inning was over.

Notes

A moment of silence was held for former baseball executive Syd Thrift, who died Monday night. … Hernandez has four RBIs as a DH. … Baltimore C Chris Widger (right shoulder pinched nerve) could miss the rest of the season. … Tampa Bay pitching coach Mike Butcher was ejected in the fifth while arguing a balk call. … Devil Rays rookie RF Delmon Young went 0-for-4 and had his 12-game hitting streak ended.

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