Fighting for fifth-starter job, Niemann strong
Scott hits second homer of spring, Myers scores winning run on fluke play
SARASOTA, Fla. -- In one of the stranger finishes to a Spring Training game, the Rays defeated the Orioles, 4-3, on Thursday in front of a record sellout crowd of 8,796 fans at Ed Smith Stadium.
With the game tied in the top of the ninth inning, Rays top prospect Wil Myers scored the game-winning run on an unusual infraction that left many in attendance puzzled. Orioles top prospect Dylan Bundy bounced a pitch that deflected off catcher Luis Exposito and came to rest just a couple feet in front of him with Myers on third. Exposito casually reached out and raked the ball in with his catcher's mask, a violation that automatically granted Myers home plate -- and ultimately the game-winning run.
Earlier in the game, Rays starter Jeff Niemann continued to state his case for the final spot in the Rays' rotation, outdueling Baltimore's 2012 first-round Draft pick Kevin Gausman.
Niemann, who is battling Roberto Hernandez for the Rays' No. 5 starter job, worked 4 1/3 innings before exiting the game with a 3-0 lead and a man on first. That lead was quickly erased, as reliever Juan Sandoval came on and walked center fielder Nate McLouth before catcher Matt Wieters crushed a three-run homer to straightaway center field to tie the game.
Wieters' blast was his second of the spring and canceled out Tampa Bay's three-run third inning that knocked Gausman from the game.
Making his first start of the spring, Gausman struggled with control issues, walking three in 2 2/3 innings. He walked three in his first four Spring Training appearances combined. Just when it looked as if he was starting to settle into a groove in the third, the Rays staged a two-out rally.
Gausman recorded a strike out and a popout to start the inning, but the right-hander walked Kelly Johnson before Evan Longoria followed with an RBI double that gave the Rays a 1-0 lead and ended Gausman's day.
The Rays wasted no time adding to the lead, as former Oriole Luke Scott -- who hit 84 homers in four seasons with Baltimore from 2008-11 -- promptly welcomed reliever Mike Belfiore to the game with a two-run blast to right, stretching the lead to 3-0.
Following Wieters' game-tying blast, the game remained tied until the top of the ninth when the unusual finish unfolded.
Up next: Matt Moore will start Friday afternoon when the Rays play host to the Phillies in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays' left-hander has had a rough spring, going 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA in three outings. Also scheduled to pitch are Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Jamey Wright, Brandon Gomes and J.D. Martin. The game can be seen live on MLB.TV.