The Orioles picked up a solid effort from starting pitcher Tommy Hunter, who allowed just two runs in 5.2 innings, but were unable to make anything happen offensively and dropped one the the Tampa Bay Rays, 2-0 Friday night.
The Orioles outhit the Rays 8-6. The combined efforts of Darren O’Day and Troy Patton equaled perfection for 2.1 innings in relief, but the team’s inability to deliver a big hit appeared very early, and far too often.
In the first, the birds had Rays starter Matt Moore (W, 8-7) on the ropes. Nick Markakis singled on the game’s first pitch. One out later, Adam Jones singled. With runners on first and second, Matt Wieters was in a position to do something positive, even with an out. His strikeout did not get that done. Chris Davis worked Moore into a full count before drawing a free pass, loading the bases with two outs. Up stepped Mark Reynolds, with a chance to do some damage. Instead, Reynolds struck out swinging, and the Orioles had blown their first golden opportunity of the night.
Unfortunately, Reynolds was the team’s primary culprit of offensive ineptitude Friday night. With the game still scoreless in the fourth, Reynolds led off by popping out to first baseman Carlos Pena. B.J. Upton would lead off the home half of the fourth with his 10th home run of the year, and the 100th of his career, making it 1-0.
Into the top of the sixth, and Chris Davis led off with another walk, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Reynolds, batting with no one out and a runner in scoring position, struck out. Lew Ford was up with a chance to cash in Davis, but flew out to right instead. Then Omar Quintanilla struck out swinging, ending the threat.
Hunter’s nemesis, the home run ball, would pay another visit leading off the sixth. Hunter got ahead of Desmond Jennings 0-2. But Hunter (L, 4-7), without a true “out” pitch, could not close the door on Jennings. The Rays left fielder, as if waiting for Hunter to make that crucial mistake, worked the count to 2-2. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, the mistake was made—a 93 MPH fastball just above the belt and out over the plate. Jennings was all over it, and skied it into the left field stands for his 8th home run, and a 2-0 Rays lead.
Hunter would get Upton on a ground out, but he walked Matt Joyce, and Ben Zobrist singled to right. With runners on forst and second with one away, Hunter made another mistake. Carlos Pena belted a high, 94 MPH fastball deep into right center. Jones made a nice play, leaping to grab it just before banging into the fence. Buck Showalter went to O’Day out of the pen, and the Rays did nothing offensively for the rest of the game.
But the Orioles were in no hurry to put the pressure on. They went 3-up, 3-down in the seventh—the first time that happened all night. Then in the eighth, against reliever Joel Peralta, the O’s started to look like a team ready to pounce.
Wieters picked up a one-out hit. Davis followed that up with a single to right. Runners on first and second with one out, and up stepped—guess who?
Mark Reynolds, on his 29th birthday, stepped to the plate for the fourth time in the game. It would be his third chance with at least one runner on base, and his second shot with men someone in scoring position. But again, instead of cashing in, Reynolds struck out. Peralta then fanned pinch hitter Wilson Betemit to end another O’s threat.
Rays closer Fernando Rodney came on in the ninth and set the birds down in order to complete the shutout.
The Orioles will send Wei-Yin Chen (9-6, 3.65) to the hill Saturday against the Rays, who counter with Jeremy Hellickson (6-6, 3.23). First pitch is slated for 7:10.
- Wieters and Jones collected a pair of hits each. Davis reached base three times, with a hit and two walks.
- Perfect relief from the ‘pen.
- Hunter’s outing was very solid: 5.2IP, 6H, 2ER, 1BB, 3K, but…
- …2 more home runs allowed from Hunter. That’s 26 long balls surrendered, the most in baseball.
- The time for Reynolds to figure things out this year has come. Friday, he left 6 runners on and struck out 3 times. His defense this year, with the exception of a few brilliant plays, has been very poor. He simply comes with too much baggage for a guy with just 8 home runs, and with the makeup of this lineup, unfortunately, the Orioles can ill-afford to keep someone like Betemit on the bench in favor of Reynolds. Much of the talk in the past 24-48 hours has centered around a Betemit/Robert Andino platoon at third. Perhaps it’s time to think about Andino at third, Betemit at first, and Reynolds…not.
- RiSP: O’s 0-7. LOB: O’s 10. In the past two games, the Orioles are 0-22 with RiSP, and have left 21 runners on.
- The Orioles struck out 11 times Friday night. They drew 3 walks.