Pena's homer can't save Rays again
First baseman ties it in eighth, but team loses on homer in ninth
ST. PETERSBURG -- After Baltimore's Jamie Walker gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Pena on Friday night, the lefty dutifully acknowledged he had been beaten.
"The last thing I want to do is hang a curveball, and I did," Walker said then. "He's got pop, so he won that battle. But I'm looking forward to facing him tomorrow."
The usually stoic lefty may want to issue a retraction. Walker blew his second save in two nights, when he was tagged for a tying home run again on Saturday night. The perpetrator?
None other than Pena, who blasted his sixth home run of the season, over the right-field fence to tie the game in the eighth inning.
"I was just trying to stay within myself -- I was trying to be as patient as I could," Pena said. "Pitchers want you to be anxious; my whole mentality was to allow it to happen."
Baltimore's Ramon Hernandez had the same idea, drawing a hitter's count of 2-0 from Dan Wheeler before blasting the winning run over the left-field fence. The home run came with two outs in the ninth inning and put Baltimore on top for good for the 3-2 win.
To his credit it was the first hit, and run, that Wheeler allowed this season. The righty was perfect in 5 1/3 innings prior to Saturday.
"Two-oh pitch late in the game, fall behind, bad things happen," Wheeler said. "Trever [Miller] did his job, I didn't."
The southpaw Miller retired Orioles lefties Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott for the inning's first two outs, before being replaced by Wheeler.
"You plan things, you plot things out and feel good about them, and they don't go as planned," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I still have all the faith in the world in Danny Wheeler."
The Orioles also had some errors in judgment. For the second consecutive night the club negated a quality start, this time from Daniel Cabrera. The towering righty worked 6 2/3 innings, scattering five hits and one run. Despite a solid performance, Cabrera, who is a perfect 6-0 against the Rays, walked away with a no-decision.
"You got to like the way Cabrera pitched," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "You got to like the way Bradford did it; I got no problems with Walker going out there in that situation. I think more times than not he's going to get it done. It just so happens Pena has been hot."
Unfortunately, as was the case earlier this week, the rest of the Rays' bats were frozen. They stranded seven batters in the first eight innings and had no extra-base hits until Pena's home run.
The Rays' first run came from touted prospect Evan Longoria, who, if he was jet-lagged on Saturday night, sure didn't show it. After a whirlwind previous 24 hours, in which Longoria was scratched from Triple-A Durham's lineup and called up for his first Major League start, the 22-year-old showed Rays fans why he is one of baseball's brightest young talents.
The third baseman, who said he touched down in Tampa around 1:30 Friday night, reached base in three of his first four Major League at-bats, including an RBI single for the Rays' first run.
"I was happy, but it's one of many hopefully," Longoria said of the Cabrera two-seamer he sent to left field.
He reached on an error the at-bat before, and drew a walk from reliever Chad Bradford in the eighth inning. Prior to ball four, Longoria blasted a would-be home run on the wrong side of the left-field pole.
Bradford promptly got Nathan Haynes to strike out, putting the kibosh on Tampa Bay's go-ahead attempt.
Sans Pena's blast, the Rays' offense was sluggish, posting goose eggs in the first six innings before Longoria's single scored B.J. Upton.
Rays starter Jason Hammel matched Cabrera's efforts, also allowing five hits and going a career-high seven innings. After granting leadoff doubles in the first two innings, the right-hander found his groove and retired eight straight Birds.
While it was hardly an appearance to hang his head, Hammel was critical of his initial performance.
"I've got to do a better job in the beginning of the game," he said. "Control the first two innings, I think we win that ballgame."
But Maddon had nothing but high praise for the 25-year-old right-hander.
"He started slowly but then he got the ball down," Maddon said. "He hung in there. This guy's got good makeup ... I thought he finished well; that was a great effort on his part."
Added Pena: "He absolutely pitched his heart out today."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.