BALTIMORE — During a season in which the Baltimore Orioles have made a habit of slugging the opposition into submission, there have been times when they have been forced to patiently carve out a victory one out at a time.
Such was the case in their 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
The game lasted 3 hours, 37 minutes. Both starting pitcher failed to make it out of the fifth inning, seven relievers saw action and neither team seemed in a hurry to put an end to the drudgery.
"It was a mentally challenging game because it's such a grind," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "A lot of time, a lot of deep counts, a lot of catcher visits."
One night after hitting five homers against the Rays, Baltimore totaled nine hits — eight singles and an RBI double by Nelson Cruz in the seventh inning.
"Coming off last night, we had such a great game and you want to kind of repeat it, but the pace of the game kind of slows your excitement down a little bit," said Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, who had two RBIs. "You've got to stay into it, and our guys did a great job."
Baltimore, which leads the majors in home runs, improved to 12-28 when not going deep. The Orioles also extended their lead in the AL East to seven games over the New York Yankees.
"I try not to look at any scoreboards yet," Showalter said.
Jonathan Schoop singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning off Grant Balfour (1-6) to help the Orioles to their 10th win in 14 games against Tampa Bay. Baltimore relievers gave up one hit over the final 4 1-3 innings.
Brad Brach (5-0) got four outs in relief of starter Wei-Yin Chen and Zach Britton worked the ninth for his 28th save.
"These are the type of games we have to have late in the season," Joseph said.
Evan Longoria had two RBIs for the Rays, who have lost seven of 10 since reaching the .500 mark on Aug. 15. Tampa Bay stranded nine, had two runners thrown out at the plate and failed to score after loading the bases in the sixth with one out and the game tied.
"Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity and then nothing happens," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's the same refrain — inability to score with runners in scoring position."
Alex Cobb gave up two runs, three hits and three walks in four innings for Tampa Bay. Cobb is unbeaten since June 23 and has a franchise-record streak of nine starts allowing two runs or fewer.
The Rays got six hits in the first two innings but scored only one run, on a first-inning RBI single by Longoria.
Baltimore went up 2-1 in the fourth. With two out and runners on second and third, Joseph hit a sinking liner to center that ticked off the glove of a diving Desmond Jennings.
A two-out double by Longoria tied it in the fifth and ended Chen's shortest outing since June 28.
But the Rays would get only one more hit after that.
"We haven't really played that poorly," Longoria said. "We've played pretty well. The pitching staff has done well. I think really (we have to) just control what we can control, continue to believe and have fun."
Rays: C Ryan Hanigan was activated from the DL after missing 38 games with a left oblique strain and C Curt Casali was optioned to Triple-A Durham.
Orioles: 3B Manny Machado left the team for California to have season-ending surgery on his right knee Wednesday.
Rays: Left-hander Drew Smyly (1-1) starts Wednesday, seeking an encore for his two-hit shutout Friday in Toronto. Smyly has an 0.64 ERA in four career appearances against Baltimore.
Orioles: Rookie RHP Kevin Gausman (7-5) is 1-2 with a 7.16 ERA in four career games against Tampa Bay.