ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays fans could feel the comeback coming on Tuesday night. They sensed a momentum swing and anticipated the impact that such a win could have on this struggle of a season.
Unfortunately for the Rays and their fan base, the comeback only put the team into striking distance, one run away from tying the game. The tease lasted only until Steve Pearce delivered the buzz-kill with a two-run homer in the seventh to lead the Orioles to a 7-4 win at Tropicana Field before 10,803.
The loss snapped the Rays' two-game winning streak, as they fell to 28-44 on the season to remain 13 games behind the American League East-leading Blue Jays.
To the Rays' credit, they showed character in coming back from what occurred in the third inning. Wednesday morning's news cycle will be ripe with highlights of Rays left-fielder David DeJesus chasing Chris Davis' drive into the corner, crashing into the wall and falling to the ground. Moments later, the resulting extra-base hit turned into an umpire-reviewed grand slam and a 5-0 Orioles lead.
"It was huge," Davis said of his team's early lead. "Any time you're on the road, any game, to be honest with you, you want to try to get the lead early and put the pressure on them. We were able to do that."
Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings cut the lead to 5-2 with back-to-back homers in the third, posing the question: Could the Rays score the necessary runs in the remaining innings while holding the Orioles at bay to steal a win?
In that vein, Rays starter Erik Bedard pitched a scoreless fourth before allowing a leadoff double to Nick Markakis to start the fifth.
Kirby Yates entered the game and held the Orioles scoreless for two innings, striking out three and effectively keeping the Orioles' bats silent while the Rays tallied twice in the fifth on James Loney's two-run double to cut the lead to 5-4.
"I wanted to get us in the dugout [in the fifth]," Yates said. "Got us in the dugout and we got some runs that next inning. Tried to go back the next inning [in the sixth] and do the same thing."
One run separated the teams when Caleb Joseph led off the Orioles seventh and hit a deep drive to right off Brad Boxberger. Right-fielder Matt Joyce got turned around on the play and Joseph ended up at second with a double.
"Just got turned around a little bit," Joyce said. "Broke back one way and as I went back, I really didn't want to take my eye off the ball with the roof. Sometimes that becomes difficult to do. So I tried to keep my eye on it and spun the other way. Obviously I didn't get to it. Really there's no excuse. That's a play that has to be made. And especially in a situation like that."
Rays manager Joe Maddon noted that Joseph's hit "gave them a little bit of a different vibe."
"You know, when you're pitching there with a runner on second base, you're thinking different things," Maddon said. "'I don't want the runner to score,' as opposed to just letting it all out. Who knows. But that's a play that Matt normally makes."
One out later, Pearce stepped to the plate and connected on a 1-0 fastball for his fifth home run of the season. The two-run blast pushed the Orioles' lead to three and, effectively, took the wind out of the Rays' sails.
"It's 5-4 there and they hit the big homer there," Maddon said. "That was the one that made it kind of difficult to come back from. We'd already come back from five points. Now we're there and we're right on the doorstep and it becomes seven. That's what made it difficult."
Davis recognized the Rays' effort in battling back before adding, "But we continued to put runners on base and push runs across."
Ultimately, that would prove the difference.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.