When Jose Alvarado, who Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash asked to open Saturday's game against the Baltimore Orioles, walked O's leadoff hitter Hanser Alberto on four pitches, everyone who follows the Rays knew that trouble was just around the corner.
The former closer once again struggled, this time as an opener, allowing one run to come across in the first inning on a wild pitch. After getting only one out, having thrown two wild pitches, and going 3-0 to the fifth hitter of the game, DJ Stewart, Cash had seen enough, calling for Austin Pruitt to come in and try to put out the bases-loaded fire.
And Pruitt did his job that inning, inducing a double-play grounder from Pedro Severino to get out of the first inning without any further damage. However, Pruitt, being tasked to pitch at least five innings, could not put out the embers that remained as the Orioles used the long ball, highlighted by a Severino grand slam, turning the tables on the Rays with a 7-1 victory.
After being taken out of the game, Alvarado looked crestfallen in the Rays' dugout, as he was being consoled by pitching coach Kyle Snyder.
"He had no chance to throw the ball over the plate at that point, and (I) didn't want another run to come in from a wild pitch," Cash said after the game.
After he came out of the game, Alvarado complained of an elbow issue, which Cash felt was not the reason for Alvarado's night.
"I don't think the injury had anything to do with today's performance. I don't," Cash said. "(But) we're a better team when Jose's throwing the ball."
Severino's grand slam off Pruitt in the third was followed in the bottom of the fourth by back-to-back solo home runs off the bats of Alberto and Jonathan Villar, extending the Orioles lead to 7-0, the same lead the Rays had over Baltimore in Friday's game.
Mike Brosseau hit a solo blast, his sixth, off O's starter John Means in the fifth inning for the Rays' only run.
Means pitched a solid seven innings for his ninth win, allowing only five hits and striking out seven.
Saturday's game was almost a carbon-copy opposite of Friday's game. The O's quieted a Rays threat in the first, just has the Rays had done to the Orioles on Friday. With one out, Tommy Pham doubled, but was left stranded at second after Austin Meadows flied out to center and Avi Garcia struck out.
And the sixth inning saw the Rays' last real threat, as Pham hit an infield single, and Travis d'Arnaud hit a bloop single with two out, only to have Means strike out Jesus Aguilar to end the inning.
Alvarado's poor first inning gave him the loss, and he is now 1-6. Who knows if this is the last the Rays will see of him this season.
*Cash said after the game that Alvarado will return to St. Petersburg to get his elbow evaluated. He is expected to be placed on the IL.
*Of Brosseau's six homers this season, five have come against the Orioles.
*Diego Castillo (2-6, 3.44 ERA) will open for the Rays in Sunday's finale, with Jalen Beeks expected to pitch the bulk innings. He'll face Dylan Bundy (5-13, 5.03 ERA), who is 1-2 against the Rays this season, the last game being July 12th, when he allowed seven runs on eight hits in one inning in a 16-4 loss to Tampa Bay. Game time is set for 1:05 p.m.