ST. PETERSBURG — Just after a bank of center field lights at Tropicana Field went dark, the Rays chances for victory went dim.
After Baltimore put runners on second and third with one out in the top of the eighth inning, the Orioles endured a 19-minute delay before play resumed to plate a pair of runs to break a tie en route to a 5-3 victory against Tampa Bay (15-18) in front of an announced crowd of 11,855 at The Trop.
Ryan Flaherty’s bases-loaded single off Rays’ reliever Joel Peralta (1-2) broke the tie while Nick Markakis brought home an insurance run on a fielder’s choice off Juan Oviedo before the inning ended. Darren O’Day (1-0) picked up the victory in relief while Tommy Hunter escaped a bases loaded jam in the ninth to record his ninth save of the season.
After coming home riding the coattails of five wins in six games to close out a 10-game road trip, the Rays failed to carry that momentum into the first game of a six-game home stand. And dealing with the lights, which never came back up before it was decided to resume play despite the dimly lit field, was just another quirk of playing at home.
“You could definitely see it was dimmer,’’ Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It got dim fast, but we have been through this before. It’s just one of the things we have to put up with on occasion here.’’
The delay, which according to Duke Energy through a statement released by the Rays was caused when lightning struck a transformer carrying incoming power lines to the park, came just after the Rays pulled even in the bottom of the seventh on a Ben Zobrist sacrifice fly to bring home David DeJesus to make it 3-3.
Peralta came in to start the eighth and allowed a lead-off single to Matt Wieters followed by a one-out double by Steve Clevenger. Just after Clevenger reached second base, a small pop was heard as the bank of lights in center field on the B-ring cat walk went dark sending both teams back to their dugouts. When it was determined that play would resume even though the lights never came back on, Peralta would walk Steve Pearce to load the bases before Flaherty lined a single to right field to regain the lead for the Orioles.
“It wasn’t the lights, it was me,’’ Peralta said when asked if the delay affected him when play resumed. “I was ready. I was warm. It was on me. It wasn’t the lights. I just didn’t execute my pitches.’’
The Rays offense executed some power early on when Evan Longoria hit an 0-2 pitch off Baltimore starter Chris Tillman for a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the first. But Tampa Bay’s offense then suffered a power outage while Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer failed to hold on to the lead despite dancing around danger in the the fourth and fifth innings.
After Pearce hit a solo home run to make it 2-1 in the third, Archer escaped a bases loaded, no out jam in the fourth - set up when Yunel Escobar dropped a feed from Zobrist on a double-play ball off the bat of Wieters - allowing just a sacrfice fly to J.J. Hardy that tied the game. The Orioles would load the bases with none out again in the fifth, but Archer would get out of it again alloing just a sacrifice fly by Adam Jones to give Baltimore the lead, though Archer’s night would end after the fifth and 100 pitches.
“I can definitely be better, but there were some positives in it as far as where my mind was for all those 100 pitches,’’ Archer said. “Improvement from last game but not where I want to be. I’m not the type of pitcher who goes five innings and throws 100 pitches.’’
The Rays had a chance to rally in the ninth when David DeJesus lead off with a single and Escobar followed with a base on balls. Ryan Hanigan bunted the runners over and Zobrist was intentionally walked to load the bases. But Desmond Jennings flew out to short right before Logan Forsythe struck out to end the game.
“Archie kept us solvent there, but Joel just did not have a very good night,’’ Maddon said. “Otherwise it was a very good game. They pitched well, we pitched well, it’s one bad inning of us tonight.’’