ST. PETERSBURG -- With the way Baltimore was pitching and the way Tampa Bay was hitting Wednesday, it was a night where one pitch could make a difference, and one pitch did.
A fastball by Brandon Gomes in the seventh inning that was supposed to be up and in caught a little too much of the plate, and Jonathan Schoop didn’t miss it.
Schoop’s two-run homer provided enough of a cushion for the Orioles, who hung on for a 4-3 victory in front of 11,282 at Tropicana Field.
“We’ve been one pitch away several times,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We got to start making that one pitch.”
Gomes, who allowed a two-out single to Steve Pearce that inning, was ahead 0-2 on Schoop when he allowed the home run.
“I think the pitch sequence was exactly what I wanted to do,” Gomes said. “I executed everything I wanted to do, but that pitch wasn’t in or up quite enough. He did a good job of pulling his hands to get to it, so I really tip my cap to him. One mistake in this division is it. It’s a game of inches.”
The Rays battled back in the ninth. Don’t they always? They scored once when Ryan Hanigan singled home Wil Myers, who opened the inning with a double against Orioles closer Tommy Hunter.
But Hunter, who allowed three hits in the inning, got Ben Zobrist to line out to shortstop and grabbed Desmond Jennings’ liner to close out the victory.
Jennings, named the American League Player of the Week last week, is 0-for-10 during the first two games of this series.
“He’s not going to be player of the week every week,” Maddon said.
Cesar Ramos turned in another solid start with a career-high 5 2/3 innings. He allowed only three hits, but two were long home runs by Adam Jones that struck the batter’s eye in center field.
Ramos retired eight straight after the second homer to Jones. With Jones due up in the sixth, Maddon called for Gomes.
“You don’t want to keep pressing your luck right there,” Maddon said. “Jones had some really good at-bats. I thought it was going to be a close game at that point. I loved Gomes on that part of the batting order. Didn’t like him, loved him.”
Gomes got Jones to fly out to right field and retired the first two batters in the seventh before Pearce rolled a single up the middle.
Two pitches later the Rays were in another two-run hole.
“You don’t want to make that mistake inside where a guy can pull a home run,” Maddon said. “He’s got to hit one the other way out. I know the intent wasn’t to throw it there. Every pitch is the right pitch to throw in every count if the location, the execution is good. He just put in the wrong spot.”
The two homers by Jones gave Orioles starter Bud Norris a 2-0 lead after four innings.
The Rays got a run back in the fifth inning when David DeJesus hit his third home run of the season, a shot that landed deep into the right field seats.
The Rays tied it in the sixth inning on a two-out rally that began when James Loney was struck on the right knee with a pitch.
Wil Myers reached on a grounder down the third base line that Orioles third baseman Manny Machado turned into an infield single with a diving stop.
That brought DeJesus to the plate, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter called for the lefty Brian Matusz. Maddon sent Sean Rodriguez up as a pinch-hitter and Rodriguez singled to center to score Loney with the tying run.
The Rays, for the second straight night against the Orioles, had the trying runs on base when the game ended.
The loss was their first one-run loss of the season.
“There’s garbage can losses. That one’s a little more difficult,” Maddon said. “It was all set up right. We had the right pitchers on the right hitters. I just didn’t want to work out for us.”