Rays fall on Wieters' walk-off home run
Tampa Bay drops to 1-9 on road trip and .500 on season
BALTIMORE - After an hour and 40 minute rain delay, the Rays and Orioles returned to action Wednesday at Camden Yards with the Orioles holding a one-run lead.
Ben Zobrist erased that lead in the top of the ninth with a home run only to see a familiar storyline come to fruition in the bottom of the ninth, as Russ Springer surrender a two-run, walk-off homer to Matt Wieters to give the Orioles a 4-2 win.
In losing, the Rays moved to 1-9 on their current road trip while falling to .500 on the season. The Rays were 13 games over .500 on Aug. 25 and have gone 4-17 since to drop out of contention in the American League East.
"This has been a tough stretch," said Carl Crawford, who has experienced some seasons when the team was the AL East doormat. "I can't deny that. It's just one of those things you just have to get through it. We definitely didn't expect it to be this way. But it is so we just have to deal with it. I didn't think it would end up like this."
Springer walked Luke Scott to start the Orioles' ninth. Wieters went the opposite way on a first-pitch fastball from the veteran right-hander for his seventh home run of the season to give the Orioles the win.
"It's a situation where you might bunt, but he gave me the sign to swing away and try and drive something," said Wieters, who had driven in five runs on Tuesday. "They gave me confidence to swing away and I was going to look for a fastball early and try to put a good swing on it, and I was fortunate enough that it carried out."
When the ball left the bat, Springer didn't think it was leaving the park.
"But he's a big fella and he hit it up high enough to where it just kept carrying," said Springer, who has given up three late homers to cost the Rays games this season. "He hit it good enough I guess."
Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't think Wieter's hit would leave the park either.
"When it left, I didn't think it was going that far," Maddon said. "He's just a strong young man and the ball just kept carrying. He hit it high and I really truly thought it was an out when it left the bat. But it had a good sound to it and he's strong. And it just kept going."
Andy Sonnanstine and Grant Balfour did what they had to do on the mound to keep the Rays in the game until the end.
Sonnanstine has suffered through a difficult season in 2009 after winning 13 games for the Rays in 2008. He began the season as the team's No. 4 starter, but went 6-7 with a 6.61 ERA in 15 starts and was optioned to Triple-A Durham on June 27. Sonnanstine spent two months and nine starts pitching for the Bulls before returning to the Rays on Sept. 2 to makes his first of two losing starts that saw him allow 11 earned runs on 14 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
With up-and-coming prospect Wade Davis making a good showing in his Major League debut, Sonnanstine was relegated to the bullpen. But Sunday's doubleheader in Boston made necessary a spot start and Sonnanstine took advantage of the opportunity, allowing one earned run in 5 2/3 innings.
"I was much more in control of my body and my pitches and I was aggressive," Sonnanstine said. "There were still a couple of walks I dind't want to happen tonight. But overall I felt good. I felt aggressive and confident. I feel like it's a good stepping stone."
The Rays' collective effort in the field has haunted the team all season. Willy Aybar played first Wednesday night and his lack of leather cost the Rays dearly.
Holding a 1-0 lead after three innings, the Orioles scored their second run of the game as a result of an Aybar error. Brian Roberts led off the inning with what appeared to be a routine grounder to first, but Aybar booted the chance. Two outs later Scott doubled to right field to drive in Roberts to make it 2-0.
Balfour took over for Sonnanstine with two outs and two aboard in the sixth and retired Scott out a pop out. The hard-throwing Aussie returned to pitch the seventh and retired the Orioles in order, looking overpowering while striking out two of the three hitters he faced.
Gregg Zaun led off the sixth with a solo home run to right against Orioles starter Chris Tillman to cut the lead to 2-1.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.