In the first two months of the season, the Orioles have played the Tampa Bay Rays 12 times. The games are invariably hard fought and memorable.

Sunday’s was no exception. After an early eight-run lead, the Orioles barely held on and escaped with a 10-7 win 19,921 at Tropicana Field.

The Orioles (35-28) had looked feeble offensively in the first two games of the series before breaking out for 10 runs and seven doubles, equaling season highs.

After just six hits in the first two games, the Orioles had 16 and escaped the dome with a half-game lead over the Rays (34-28) for third place in the AL East.

“This is a great team. I guarantee you we’re going to be in first really quick,” Alexi Casilla said.

Tampa Bay has beaten the Orioles seven of 12 games. The teams won’t meet again until late August. By that time, perhaps Casilla will proven right.

Casilla, who doesn’t play often, would like to play second base more.. His two hits and two RBIs may help his cause. His spectacular tag on the Rays’ speedy Desmond Jennings may help it more.

“What a tag he made,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter raved.

In the second inning, trailing by four runs, Jennings tried to steal second. Matt Wieters threw it to Casilla.

“I knew that if I just caught it, he would be safe, so I had to spin around and try to tag him. It happened. I got lucky. I just react because that ball cut.” Casilla said.

Showalter regularly points out overlooked plays, the “game within the game” moments. Casilla’s tag was one of them.

For a while, it looked as if the Orioles would have a rare laugher. They scored nine runs in the first four innings to give Chris Tillman a 9-1 lead.

In the eighth, Brian Matusz allowed three runs, and in the ninth, Tampa Bay brought the tying run to the plate, but Jim Johnson retired Kelly Johnson on a pop out to end the game.

Tillman (6-2) won his third straight decision, making it through six innings, allowing three runs on four hits.

J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Steve Pearce each had three hits.

“We were just being aggressive,” Hardy said.