05/05/09 12:11 AM ET
Rays come up short in close battle with O's
Tampa Bay unable to give Baltimore the Sox treatment
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The Rays are now 6-14 against teams that are not Boston.
"You know that just shows you we're capable of beating some good teams," manager Joe Maddon said. "And we just have to put it together more consistently. That part is a bit frustrating, but there were a lot of good things that happened tonight. We just got beat."
Former Rays Aubrey Huff, Ty Wigginton, and Danys Baez all played integral roles in slamming the door on the Rays' comeback effort that looked promising after a rough beginning Monday night.
Scott Kazmir started for the Rays and managed to find something after he got off to a rough start. The Rays left-hander walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches before he served up a hanging slider to Nick Markakis, who deposited the ball into the right-field stands for a 3-0 lead for Baltimore.
"I didn't really feel good to be honest," Kazmir said. "The pitch I threw to Markakis that was a hanging slider that should have never been thrown. It felt like it was way too good of a pitch and it just got away from me again in the first inning. Then after that I settled down and went as long as I could."
Markakis went 3-for-5 on the evening, falling a triple short of the cycle.
"Any time you're going against a guy with the stuff [Kazmir] has, it's tough," Markakis said. "He was a little shaky at first. We waited on pitches and had some good pitches in some good situations."
The remainder of the game saw the Rays struggle to put together a comeback. Evan Longoria hit his eighth home run of the season in the first inning and, much to Maddon's delight, the Rays used outs to score runs when Jason Bartlett twice hit RBI groundouts. The second of those moved the Rays to within one run at 4-3.
Carlos Pena then doubled to open the sixth and scored on Willy Aybar's single to tie it at 4. Unfortunately for the Rays, that's when their effort stalled.
Brian Roberts singled to open the seventh and one out later Markakis singled to right field to chase Kazmir. Joe Nelson came on to pitch and Roberts and Markakis immediately pulled off a double steal.
"Once they got second and third against Nelson, that made it an entirely different inning out of the whole situation," Maddon said. "That was a big play."
After Nelson walked Melvin Mora, Huff hit a sacrifice fly to break the tie. Wigginton then added an RBI double to put the Orioles on top, 6-4.
Nelson tried to slip a 3-2 changeup past Roberts in the eighth that Roberts rerouted over the right-field wall to essentially put the game out of reach at 8-4. Baez relieved Orioles starter Adam Eaton in the sixth, finishing that inning and pitching the seventh to claim his second win of the season. Jim Johnson and George Sherrill pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth to finish off the win.
Nelson blamed himself for the loss.
"Scotty's line is not going to look as good," said Nelson, who could not prevent the runners he inherited from Kazmir from scoring. "He threw better than that. Come in with [runners on] first and second. Let them steal the first pitch. That changes the situation for me. ... Didn't work out.
"Huff got the sac and gave up a knock to Wigginton. It's still 6-4. Go out and have a clean inning and 6-4 is something we can come back from; 8-4 seems insurmountable at that point. So those two runs, actually the four I gave up, obviously, were the difference in the game."
By winning, the Orioles claimed their first win at Tropicana Field since April 12, 2008. In addition to snapping a seven-game losing streak at the Rays' home, the Orioles also ended a season-long six-game skid.
"I told them, 'Don't beat yourself up because we know we have a good club and everybody goes through it,'" Orioles manager Dave Trembley said, "just relax and go play.'"
Maddon did not believe the Rays were suffering a hangover from their weekend binge.
"The dugout was really good, and I thought we did a lot of conceptual things well," Maddon said. "Their bullpen is pretty firm, so you've got to get on top. We got back to tied and then they beat us with the battle of the bullpen.
"I like the fight a lot. I actually thought we did fight well tonight. We just could not make the pitch or get the hit, but the fight was good."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.