ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Pinch-hitter James Loney led off the ninth inning with a game-ending home run against Tommy Hunter on Monday as the Tampa Bay Rays
swept a four-game series from the reeling and suddenly battered Baltimore Orioles
, 5-4, at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (87-69) held onto the top wild-card spot in the American League by claiming its ninth win in 12 games. The Rays are one game ahead of the idle Cleveland Indians
. Baltimore (81-75) fell 5 1/2 games behind the Rays and five back of Cleveland for the second wild-card spot.
Joel Peralta earned the win in one inning of relief.
The loss was costly for Baltimore. All-Star third baseman Manny Machado
appeared to suffer a left knee injury stepping awkwardly on first base running out a ground ball in the seventh inning. Machado's knee appeared to buckle inward and he went immediately to the dirt. He was removed from the field on a cart.
Tampa Bay tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh when Wil Myers snapped an 0-for-18 Rays slide with the bases loaded by singling to right off reliever Darren O'Day to score two runs. Orioles second baseman Alexi Casilla momentarily made a diving catch of the ball but lost control when his head collided with the thigh of on-rushing right fielder Nick Markakis
Jose Lobaton, on with a lead-off walk, and Ben Zobrist, who had singled scored on the play.
Myers finished 2-for-4.
Baltimore lost a prime scoring opportunity to start the eighth when Zobrist was able to chase down Matt Wieters' shot off the wall in left. Myers fired a one-hop strike from the bullpen to nail Wieters trying to stretch a double into a triple.
Tampa Bay jumped to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when rookie Tim Beckham knocked in his first big-league run with a sacrifice fly.
Baltimore, the major league club best in home runs, had been kept inside the ballpark for the entire series until the fourth, when AL leader Chris Davis mashed a two-run shot to center. His 52nd of the season scored Machado, who had led off with a single.
Markakis added a two-out single off Rays starter Chris Archer and scored for a 3-1 lead on an RBI single by J.J. Hardy.
Tampa Bay trimmed the deficit to one run in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out RBI double by Jose Molina that scored Beckham, who had singled.
The Orioles increased the lead to 4-2 in the top of the fifth when Brian Roberts tucked his sixth home run of the season inside the right-field foul pole.
Archer was charged with four earned runs on five hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out seven.
For Baltimore, Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four
NOTES: Rays manager Joe Maddon said he expected CF Desmond Jennings to return before the end of the regular season because of what the team is describing as a mild left hamstring strain. He will be evaluated daily, but treated with caution considering speed is such a major component of his game. Jennings was injured running out a bunt single on Sunday. ... Rays RH Alex Cobb was named American League Player of the Week after going 2-0 in two starts with a 1.65 ERA. ... Entering play on Monday, the Orioles were 65-54 when hitting a home run and 16-20 when not. They had not homered in the Rays series until Monday and had lost all three games. ... The Rays employed a different looking lineup for the finale of the series with rookie 2B Beckham earning his first major league start and Delmon Young at DH. ... Tampa Bay reinstated RH Jesse Crain from the 60-day disabled list.
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