Bullpen can't hang on as Rays fall
Relievers inherit tied game, give up four runs in eighth
ST. PETERSBURG -- Dan Wheeler has been a rock since coming to the Rays at the trade deadline for Ty Wigginton.
The right-hander has helped resurrect Tampa Bay's bullpen with his pitching skills and his veteran presence. Since suffering a one-run loss in Chicago on Aug. 27, Wheeler had run together an impressive little streak of four perfect outings and those appearances were when the game was on the line.
On Tuesday night, the tide turned for the Rays once Wheeler entered the game -- and it flowed in a direction the Rays aren't familiar to seeing from "Wheels," as the Orioles took an 8-4 win in front of a crowd of 9,112 at Tropicana Field.
"He just didn't have his better stuff tonight and they just put the ball in certain spots," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They got their knocks and that's going to happen. You can't be an oil painting every night."
Wheeler started the eighth inning and gave up four hits and one run before leaving the game with Orioles on every base. Scott Dohmann took over for Wheeler and allowed a bases-clearing double by Ramon Hernandez to put Baltimore up 8-4.
"I guess I'm going to have to chalk it up to [one of those nights]," Wheeler said. "I felt like I was making some pretty good pitches. I think the hardest hit ball probably was [Aubrey Huff's]. ... It's kind of frustrating, because I feel like I've been throwing the ball good and I go out there and do that. I just kind of waste the game away. And the way we've been playing you can't allow that to happen."
Another losing season for the Rays was a foregone conclusion entering Tuesday night's game considering their record, but the team's 82nd loss of the season guaranteed the team would have its 10th consecutive losing season since beginning play in 1998. On the bright side, the loss did not mirror what the Rays have been up to lately, which is winning. Tuesday night's loss was only the team's third loss in its last 12 games.
In winning, the Orioles snapped a four-game losing streak to the Rays, a team they normally dominate. The O's lead the season series, 11-6, with one game to go, giving the Rays a fourth straight season in which they have lost 11 or more games to the O's. Helping to tip the scale in the O's favor this season has been Huff.
On Tuesday night the former Ray got busy against the Tampa Bay again, hitting a two-run homer off ace Scott Kazmir in the seventh to erase a 3-2 Rays lead.
"I wish I had [that pitch] back," said Kazmir, who allowed four runs in seven innings to earn a no-decision. "I would've thrown it in a different location."
Huff now has 15 home runs on the season and seven are against the Rays, tying Alex Rodriguez for the most home runs against the Rays this season. Huff's blast also gave him 73 career home runs at Tropicana Field, which is the most all time by 21 over Fred McGriff.
"He's killing us," Maddon said. "He's hit the ball very well against us. Right now you see that he's locked in. He's not taking bad swings. He kind of looks like Carlos [Pena] does on our side. He looks like he's going to hit every ball hard when he swings at it. He's seeing the ball very well right now."
Despite the loss, Maddon said he still likes the way the Rays are playing.
"So we'll just move on after tonight's game and come back tomorrow and we'll take our day off [Thursday] and move on from there," Maddon said. "But our guys have been playing at a very high level emotionally, intensity. And they got us tonight. Pure and simple they got us."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.