BALTIMORE (AP) — Kevin Cash — who would know a thing or two about good relief pitching — came away impressed by the options Baltimore has for the late innings.
"They've got some bullpen arms down there that are putting together good seasons, and challenged us," the Tampa Bay manager said.
Rookie Adley Rutschman singled home the game's only run in the seventh as the Orioles handed the Rays their fourth straight loss, 1-0 on Friday night. Dean Kremer pitched six scoreless innings, and three Baltimore relievers protected the lead. Félix Bautista and Jorge López were particularly impressive, striking out seven of the nine hitters they faced.
Kremer allowed five hits and matched the six scoreless frames thrown by Tampa Bay's Shane Baz. Then Ryan Mountcastle hit a one-out double off Calvin Faucher (0-1), and Rutschman followed with a single to center.
It was just the fourth RBI in 23 games for the highly touted catching prospect, who hit his first home run two days earlier at Toronto.
"I'm just going pitch to pitch, AB to AB," Rutschman said.
Bautista (3-2) struck out the side in the seventh for the Orioles and retired all four of his batters. Cionel Pérez allowed two singles after relieving Bautista, but he struck out Vidal Bruján before giving way to López.
López fanned Yandy Díaz for the third out of the eighth, then struck out three more in the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances.
Bautista lowered his ERA to 1.65, Pérez lowered his to 1.35, and López lowered his to 0.82. Baltimore's relievers have a 3.25 ERA collectively this year, down from 5.70 in 2021.
Tampa Bay, a team that's become synonymous with good bullpen work in recent years, is struggling now because of its offense. The Rays were shut out for the fifth time this season and the second time in four games. They are without shortstop Wander Franco (quadriceps), infielder Brandon Lowe (back) and catcher Mike Zunino (shoulder).
Baz allowed just two hits and struck out seven on his 23rd birthday, but Kremer struck out five with one walk and kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard. After a three-game sweep at the hands of the AL East-leading Yankees, the Rays have now matched their longest skid of the season. Tampa Bay is 1-6 so far on its nine-game road trip.
In the sixth, Bruján led off with a single but was caught stealing by Rutschman. Later that inning, Ji-Man Choi was thrown out trying to stretch a single to a double. Shortstop Jorge Mateo made both putouts.
"Huge plays. Great throw by (right fielder Anthony) Santander. Great tag by Mateo, twice," manager Brandon Hyde said. "Mateo's playing such good shortstop for us. He's making huge plays almost on a nightly basis."
Baz rebounded nicely after allowing five runs in 2 1/3 innings in his season debut at Minnesota.
"It was a bounce-back performance," Cash said. "After the second inning, it felt like he got in a good rhythm and really did a nice job."
It was the first quality start of Baz's career. It was Kremer's fourth and first of the season.
"That was the best I've seen him throw, since really his debut in 2020," Hyde said. "Just from how aggressive he was with his fastball, I thought he used his cutter in appropriate times, I thought he had a really good changeup that he utilized."
Rays: OF Kevin Kiermaier (calf, Achilles) missed a second straight game.
Tampa Bay LHP Jeffrey Springs (3-2) starts Saturday against Baltimore RHP Kyle Bradish (1-4). Springs is coming off two straight scoreless starts.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister