(Photo credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)
Luke Raley's tiebreaking solo home run in the seventh inning gave the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 victory against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday in the opener of a four-game between the top two teams in the American League East.
Raley has 19 homers this year, though he hadn't hit one since Aug. 24. He had only two RBIs in 12 games this month prior to the two-out blast off Orioles starter Kyle Bradish (11-7).
Randy Arozarena smacked a two-run triple for the Rays (91-57), who have won six of their last seven games to pull within one game of the first-place Orioles (91-55).
Ryan O'Hearn and Gunnar Henderson homered for Baltimore, which managed just four hits.
At the start of a series that was pegged as a division showdown, the contest lived up to the hype.
The Rays used five pitchers who combined for 15 strikeouts and one walk, with the bullpen combining to retire all 12 batters it faced. Colin Poche (12-3) was the winner in relief with one shutout inning, and Pete Fairbanks struck out the side in the ninth for his 24th save.
Aaron Civale went five innings as Tampa Bay's starter, allowing three runs on four hits and one walk while striking out eight.
Bradish gave up four runs on seven hits in seven innings, ending a six-game stretch in which he didn't allow more than two runs in any outing.
Raley went 2-for-3 as the game's only player with more than one hit.
O'Hearn led off the second inning with his 13th home run of the season.
The Rays went ahead in the third with Arozarena's two-run triple following Brandon Lowe's run-scoring single.
Henderson's 26th homer to begin the bottom of the fourth made it 3-2.
The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth but managed only a tying run on Adam Frazier's fielder's-choice grounder.
The Orioles benefitted from early defense, with center fielder Cedric Mullins making a diving catch in deep right-center field to rob Taylor Walls with two outs in the second.
--Field Level Media