After winning the first two games of the series, Tampa had tied the O’s for first place but Baltimore, as they have all year, bounced back winning the third game and the series finale 5-4 in 11 exciting innings before 37,297 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
On a 72-degree overcast day the finale was arguably the most exciting game of the most exciting season in years and had the fans on the edge of their seats all game long as each team was dueling for first place alone in the AL East Division.
Adding to the excitement, both teams found out during the game that they made the playoffs after the Texas Rangers lost.
With the score tied 1-1 in the eighth inning, Orioles’ reliever Jorge Lopez surrendered two home runs to center field quieting the crowd as the Rays led 3-1 with their outstanding closer Peter Fairbanks and their shutdown bullpen seemingly making it tough to have a rally for the Birds.
But with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning All-Star catcher Adley Rutschman had other ideas. With two strikes, he took a 101 mph Fairbanks fastball and knocked it 401 ft into the seats in right center for his 19th homer making the score 3-2.
The crowd went wild.
The Rays appeared to score a run in the bottom of the ninth but the call of safe was reviewed and overturned much to the delight of the home crowd.
The O’s bullpen kept the score 3-2 and then Oriole Magic began to happen. In the bottom of the ninth inning Austin Hays hit a single. Speedster Jorge Mateo came in to run for him.
Now with two outs and two strikes Adam Frazier, with Mateo running on the pitch, shot a double down the left field line and it rolled around in the corner long enough for Mateo to sprint home with the tying run making the score 3-3.
It was just the second blown save in the last 37 chances for Fairbanks.
The crowd went berserk.
The Rays, with the benefit of the automatic runner on second in extra innings, took the lead in the 10th inning with two ground outs, 4-3.
More Oriole Magic. With two outs and Aaron Hicks on second Rutschman hit a 97mph sinker to center for a single driving in Hicks and making the score 4-4.
By this time Oriole Magic was on full magic-ness and the crowd responded with a thunderous cheer, high-fives taking place all over the ballpark.
Now in the top of the 11th with the score tied 4-4, DL Hall on in relief for Baltimore induced a foul out and two groundouts keeping the score 4-4 with Baltimore coming to bat.
Now in the bottom of the 11th inning the Camden Yards crowd was on their feet.
Guess who was on second? Rutschman of course!
At bat was Ryan O’Hearn who had not bunted all season, bunted towards first base as Rutschman raced to third.
Now up Cedric Mullins. The buzz in the crowd was electric and everyone was on their feet just waiting to explode in joy because of what they thought was about to happen next.
With two strikes he reached down and golfed a 96mph fastball deep enough in center field that the fielder just caught the ball and made no attempt to throw home as Rutschman crossed the plate with the winning run making the score 5-4.
The Comeback Kids scored in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings to secure the win.
The crowd exploded. The players stormed out of the dugout and surrounded around Mullins smacking him on the back celebrating his winning sacrifice fly. Hays came running with the Gatorade bucket and doused Mullins much to the delight of everyone in the stadium except the Rays.
The Oriole Bird came into the outfield and was waving the Orioles Win flag as the players put on their “Take October” playoff tee shirts.
The players, dressed in playoff orange, gathered around the dugout taking in the moment and honoring the fans that have waited years for a winner.
Baltimore winning baseball is back. Baltimore playoff baseball is back. Oriole Magic is back.
With a record of (93-56) Baltimore is two games better that the second place Rays (92-59) with 13 games to play in Baltimore’s season. With this win they win the season series with Tampa 8-5 so any ties between the two teams goes to the Orioles.
They now go on the road to take on the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Guardians.