BALTIMORE -- Tampa Bay took advantage of its chances Monday night, and the Baltimore Orioles didn't. That's the main reason the Rays took the first game of this crucial late-season series.
Matt Joyce hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fourth inning that stood up for Tampa Bay as the Rays pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Joyce's homer gave Tampa Bay (71-52) a 4-2 lead, and the Orioles couldn't catch up as they wasted numerous scoring chances on a night where they finished with 15 hits in this 3-hour, 56-minute marathon.
They went just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left a season-high 15 men on base. Baltimore stranded runners in scoring position in six innings and threatened time and time again but couldn't come through at the right time.
"It was weird; it was definitely weird," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was thick. When you get tense and you get awkward and you get trepidation and craziness, it's thick. It's a thick game there."
The Orioles have experienced plenty of problems hitting with runners in scoring position in recent weeks, and it happened again Monday.
"We had some good at-bats," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Our guys were engaged. It's a frustrated locker room right now, but they're good and we think we have a chance to be, too. It's a frustrating game."
The Rays now have won five of their last six games, and Baltimore (67-57) dropped four games behind Tampa Bay in the Wild Card race. The Orioles were 3 1/2 games behind Oakland pending the result of the A's game against Seattle later Monday night.
Tampa Bay starter David Price had been dominant since early July but struggled throughout his five-inning stint on Monday. Price (7-5) got the win but gave up 10 hits and needed to escape jams in four of the five innings to leave with a 4-2 lead.
"That's the best I've been in my last three outings, and this team is just, they're tough," Price said about the Orioles. "That's why they're in the position that they're in right now."
Fernando Rodney came on in the ninth and earned his 28th save.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman (14-4) had problems with the long ball, as Tampa Bay scored three of its runs off him that way. He gave up Joyce's game-winning shot and an Evan Longoria solo homer, allowing four runs in six innings.
Matt Wieters (3-for-5) hit the only Baltimore homer, which cut the lead to 4-3 in the seventh. But the Orioles could do no more.
The Rays took a quick 1-0 lead when Longoria hit a two-out homer to center off Tillman in the top of the first. Tampa Bay made it 2-0 in the second on Kelly Johnson's RBI single.
Baltimore got three straight singles, capped by Danny Valencia's RBI hit, to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the second. Valencia went 2-for-2 versus Price, and is 9-for-12 in his career against the left-hander.
The Orioles then tied it on a Wieters RBI double in the third on a ball that barely missed being a home run.
Tampa Bay took a 4-2 lead in the fourth on Joyce's two-run homer, and all of those missed Baltimore chances helped the Rays escape with a big win.
"It's a huge series," Joyce said. "It's definitely getting crunch time, and for us, this is one of those series that we definitely want to win. You can't sit back and relax or anything, but it's definitely a nice feeling to get the first win."
NOTES: Showalter moved 2B Brian Roberts to the leadoff position. RF Nick Markakis often batted first against tough left-handers in place of LF Nate McLouth, but Showalter put Roberts in the top spot and dropped Markakis to seventh for the first time in more than six years. ... Baltimore SS J.J. Hardy returned to the lineup, on his 31st birthday, after missing two games due to back spasms. ... Rays C Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off triple and a walk-off homer last weekend against Toronto, and Maddon had a three-gallon tub of ice cream waiting for him on the team's charter flight to Baltimore. The Elias Sports Bureau said Lobaton was the first catcher to hit a walk-off triple and homer in the same year since Wally Schang did it for the Philadelphia A's in 1917.