BALTIMORE — Zach Eflin and two relievers combined on a two-hitter, Brandon Lowe and Harold Ramírez homered, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-1 on Friday night to pull into a virtual tie atop the AL East.
Tampa Bay, which has won nine of 11 and 18 of 24, has erased a season-high four-game deficit in a span of six days thanks in part to winning the first two of a four-game series against Baltimore.
Heston Kjerstad homered leading off the sixth — his first major league hit — for the Orioles, who have dropped four in a row to match their longest skid of the season. Baltimore (91-56) still leads the Rays (92-57) by percentage points in the division race.
Eflin (15-8), who leads the AL in victories, allowed just one baserunner in the first five innings. Gunnar Henderson reached on third baseman Isaac Paredes’ fielding error to lead off the first, but was erased two batters later when Anthony Santander grounded into a double play.
Eflin’s bid to throw the second no-hitter in Rays history and first since Matt Garza’s in 2010 ended when Kjerstad smashed a cutter to right field. It was the first big league start for Kjerstad, who made his debut Thursday as a pinch-hitter.
The homer was the only hit allowed by Eflin, who struck out eight in seven innings.
Jake Diekman walked Aaron Hicks and yielded Cedric Mullins’ single to begin the eighth but struck out the next three batters. Chris Devenski pitched a perfect ninth.
The teams combined for two baserunners in the first three innings before Tampa Bay got to Baltimore starter Jack Flaherty. Lowe led off the fourth with a homer to right-center, and Manuel Margot later added an RBI single.
Flaherty (8-9) was lifted after surrendering back-to-back singles to begin the fifth. Jacob Webb allowed Lowe’s sacrifice fly, but escaped further damage.
Baltimore reliever DL Hall gave up three consecutive hits to open the sixth, including Margot’s RBI double. Ramírez, pinch hitting for Luke Raley, then blasted Bryan Baker’s first pitch to left-center to make it 7-0.
Orioles: RHP Félix Bautista (elbow) played catch before the game. ... Manager Brandon Hyde was “hopeful” 1B Ryan Mountcastle (shoulder) would be available off the bench. Hyde said Mountcastle was feeling better after leaving Wednesday’s game with a shoulder issue and sitting Thursday.
Former Baltimore OF Adam Jones was honored before the game, hours after ceremonially retiring with the franchise with which he spent the bulk of his career.
Jones played 11 of his 14 seasons with Baltimore, earning five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger award. He was a key part of playoff teams in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954, Jones ranks fourth among Orioles in hits (1,781) and fifth in homers (263), RBIs (866) and runs (875).
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow (9-5, 3.15 ERA) is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA in two starts against Baltimore this season.
Orioles: RHP Grayson Rodriguez (5-4, 4.88) is 3-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 10 starts since returning to the majors July 17.