BALTIMORE — The Tampa Bay Rays are way past the point of looking at losses as, “Boy, that was a bad one,” so Tuesday’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards was just another in a season of disappointment and one the club has seen far too often this year.
The Rays had three runners thrown out at the plate, left the bases loaded again and watched their only lead slip away when Desmond Jennings couldn’t make a sliding catch in center field to end the fourth inning.
Add in a short day by starter Alex Cobb, and you have a 4-2 loss that further dented the Rays’ postseason hopes.
“Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity and nothing happens,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays left nine runners on base. They had six hits through the first three innings and only one run to show for it, thanks to a runner being thrown out at home in the first two innings.
“It’s the same refrain: inability to score runs with runners in scoring position,” Maddon said. “Runners out there, we had great at-bats to get them out there, we just have had (trouble) finishing that play off. Bases loaded has not been a good play for us either.
“Explanation, I don’t have one. That’s just called baseball. We haven’t been good at that this year. Probably next year we’ll be like the best team in all of baseball.”
That’s next year.
This year the Rays are watching their faint postseason hopes grow fainter. They are 12 games behind the first-place Orioles with 30 to play. They began the night 7 1⁄2 games out of the second wild-card spot and lost a chance to make up ground in that race.
Cobb was looking to extend his club record of eight straight starts in which he allowed two or fewer runs and he did, though the right-hander lasted only four innings for his shortest outing since June 7.
Cobb was pulled after throwing 92 pitches, including 33 in the fourth inning.
“I felt really good,” Cobb said. “I think sometimes you got to tip your cap to a string of really good at-bats.”
The Orioles took their first lead in the fourth on a two-out, two-run single to center field by Caleb Joseph that eluded a sliding Jennings.
Nelson Cruz started the inning with a single and Delmon Young drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Cruz advanced to third when J.J. Hardy flew out to right field, and Young stole second base when Chris Davis struck out.
Joseph then hit a sinking line drive to shallow center and Jennings couldn’t make the catch.
“I thought he did catch it at first,” Cobb said. “It would have been a great catch if he did.”
Jennings was the first of the three Rays to get thrown out at the plate. It happened in the first inning when he tried to score from third on a grounder to third base, but he was thrown out when first baseman Steven Pearce made a quick throw home. Maddon asked the umpires to see if Joseph had blocked the plate, but the call stood.
Adam Jones threw out Ryan Hanigan trying to score from second base on a single to center field to end the second inning.
Jennings, batting with the bases loaded in the sixth, grounded to third and forced James Loney at the plate.
Evan Longoria drove in both Rays runs.
Jonathan Schoop’s two-out single off Grant Balfour put the Orioles up 3-2 in the sixth. The Orioles took advantage of the Rays’ inability to turn a 3-6-1 double play in the seventh to add an insurance run.
So, the difference in the game was the Rays’ inability to make plays.
“I think you can make that point that we’re not playing at the top of our game, but when teams are having seasons like the Orioles are having right now, those situations go in their favor more often than not,” Cobb said.
“We can look at it both ways. I kind of felt facing this Orioles team and the way things are going for them, I almost felt the way I was facing the Red Sox last year. The quality of at-bats one-through-nine and making situations in their favor and not sitting back and letting things happen. They’re going out and making things happen.”