ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Rookie right-hander Spenser Watkins gave up one run in six innings as the Baltimore Orioles tied a season high with their third consecutive win, 6-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
The 28-year old Watkins, making his third start and fourth career appearance, scattered four hits, walked two and struck out seven. His ERA dropped from 1.74 to 1.65 (three earned runs over 16 1/3 innings).
“That's what I've dreamed my entire career, is be able to have success in the big leagues,” Watkins said. “To be able to do that three times in a row is incredible. It just pushes me to continue to keep getting better, keep working. Complacency is not an option for me. It's been an incredible ride so far."
Watkins (2-0) was signed as a minor league free agent in February after not pitching in 2020 and spending 2014-19 in the Detroit organization. He had considered taking a high school freshman team coaching job in Arizona before signing with Baltimore.
“Great story,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He's pitching with confidence. He's not going to be overpowering. Able to work in and out, change speeds — so he's pitching. Back to the old-school art of pitching instead of trying to blow the ball by everybody at the top of the zone. It's fun to watch.”
It’s the fifth three-game winning streak for the Orioles, who have an AL-worst record of 31-62.
Cole Sulser, Paul Fry and Tyler Wells completed the five-hitter. Baltimore entered 0-6 against the Rays this season, getting outscored 48-21.
Tampa Bay All-Star catcher Mike Zunino exited after three innings with left hip flexor tightness. Designated hitter Yandy Díaz departed after five innings due to neck spasms.
“I'm feeling pretty confident it's not going to be much time." Zunino said. “See how I bounce back in the morning.”
The Rays (55-39) are 8-3 since July 4. The loss dropped Tampa Bay 1 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston.
Ryan Mountcastle flared an RBI double down the right field line and Anthony Santander hit a sacrifice fly as the Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the first.
Pat Valaika had a two-out, two-run single during a four-run sixth that made it 6-0.
Kelvin Gutierrez drove in a run on a single off Ryan Yarbrough (6-4), and Austin Hays added an RBI double against Matt Wisler. Santander started the inning by drawing a walk to cap a 12-pitch plate appearance.
Randy Arozarena had a run-scoring double in the sixth for the Rays. He was shaken up on an awkward slide when his face struck the bag during a failed attempt to steal second, ending the fourth.
Yarbrough allowed six runs and eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. He was 5-0 in his previous 12 outings dating to April 30.
Tampa Bay entered with an AL-best bullpen ERA of 3.23, and reinforcements are coming.
RHP Nick Anderson (right elbow) will throw live batting practice for the second time Tuesday. RHP Chris Archer (right forearm) is set for his third rehab appearance Thursday.
However, RHP Ryan Thompson (right shoulder) will have additional tests after feeling discomfort during Monday’s bullpen session. RHP Oliver Drake (right flexor) has continuing upper back and neck issues.
Orioles: All-Star CF Cedric Mullins was rested.
Rays: Tampa Bay ace Tyler Glasnow (right elbow) is playing catch but there is no date for a bullpen session. “He’s in a really good spot," manager Kevin Cash said. “I know it’s 75, 90 feet, but it’s still Glasnow and there’s reason to be excited.” … LHP Brendan McKay (shoulder surgery) is scheduled to pitch Tuesday in a Florida Complex League game.
Orioles: LHP John Means (shoulder) returns from the 10-day IL to start Tuesday night. Means (4-2) last pitched June 5 against Cleveland.
Rays: LHP Shane McClanahan (3-3), born in Baltimore, will face the Orioles for the first time. He had a Cal Ripken growth poster on his wall growing up.
“Cal is the reason I love the game,” McClanahan said.
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