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Rays drop fourth in a row, lose 5-4 to Baltimore

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Published:   |   Updated: April 17, 2013 at 07:32 AM
BALTIMORE -

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was happy to be sitting in the visiting dugout Tuesday afternoon at Camden Yards, despite the fact his offense has been missing for some time and the Baltimore Orioles were mashing the ball all over the park during batting practice.

The way the eternally optimistic Maddon sees things, Tuesday was the first day of the rest of the season.

“I'm really excited to get out there (Tuesday night) because you always believe today is the day it's going to start to flip, and hopefully that's going to happen,” Maddon said before the game.

And it almost happened.

The Rays continued to struggle with runners in scoring position but did find their power bats, hitting three home runs – two in the eighth inning – in a 5-4 loss to the Orioles that extended the Rays losing streak to five games.

But, Maddon said he saw a lot of good things in the loss.

“I thought we had better at-bats overall, we did hit some balls well,” Maddon said after the game.

But those at-bats didn't come when they had chances to put together big innings.

The Rays left runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and sixth innings.

They forced Baltimore's Jake Arrieta to throw 112 pitches, working five walks against the right hander.

And came away with one run.

And that run scored when Desmond Jennings homered on the very first pitch of the game.

“Normally when you do that you score more than one run,” Maddon said. “That's difficult to do, scoring one run on that many pitches in that amount of time.”

But the Rays futility with runners in scoring position, which dogged them during the three-game sweep in Boston, continued at Camden Yards.

The Rays were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They have just one hit – Ben Zobrist's RBI single in the ninth inning Monday – in their last 34 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Back-to-back two-out walks to Kelly Johnson and Zobrist in the third inning brought Evan Longoria to the plate, but all Longoria could do was pop up to shortstop.

Matt Joyce, whose bloop single to left field in the second inning was only his third hit of the trip, ripped a double into the right-center field gap to begin the fourth inning. Joyce beat the throw to second with a head-first slide and came up clapping his hands.

But, Yunel Escobar grounded out to shortstop and James Loney and Jose Lobaton went down swinging.

The Rays had a runner in scoring position in the sixth inning when Longoria walked and advanced to second when Joyce flied out to the warning track in center field. But Escobar grounded to third base and Shelly Duncan, batting for Loney, flied out to center.

The Rays are 1-6 on this road trip with two more to play in Baltimore.

The 1-6 road start matches the 2002 Devil Rays for the second worst road start in team history. The 2005 club began the 1-10 on the road.

Their 4-9 start matches the 2001 and 2005 Devil Rays for the worst 13-game start in franchise history.

Maddon, who didn't see the flip Tuesday, felt his team inched closer to making that move during Tuesday's game.

“I know some people might not understand that but you got to build a little at a time to get back to where you normally want to be,” Maddon said. “I was really pleased with the attitude, the effort. Not the results, but that will come.”

Maddon was pleased with the way Johnson's at-bats. He moved Johnson up to the No. 2 spot in the order in an effort to jump-start his offense, and Johnson responded by drawing a pair of walks and hitting a home run in the eighth inning.

Maddon joked before the game that Johnson's move up the order was for “try to build Kelly confidence day.”

Johnson had a patient night at the plate. He was caught looking in his first at-bat, but the third strike ended a 13-pitch at-bat.

His home run in the eighth was an opposite field shot off Pedro Strop and started a three run rally. Evan Longoria homered after a walk to Ben Zobrist to make it a one-run game.

Joyce had two hits and flied out to the wall in center field, a performance that actually earned him an at-bat against Orioles left-handed reliever Troy Patton.

The four runs were the most they scored in six games and was one more than they scored while being swept in three games at Boston.

Also, the three home runs were a welcomed sight to a team that went more than a week between home runs.

But the difference between winning and losing Tuesday was illustrated during the Orioles two-run sixth inning.

Rays starter Roberto Hernandez allowed a run in each of the first three innings but had settled down as the game moved into the sixth.

He walked leadoff hitter Nick Markakis and allowed a double to Adam Jones. Hernandez intentionally walked Chris Davis, who crushed Rays pitching during the opening series of the season.

That also loaded the bases. A gamble for sure against this Orioles offense, but one that appeared to be going in the Rays favor. Hernandez struck out Matt Wieters, who had homered in the second inning, and got J.J. Hardey to hit a weak grounder to third.

But Longoria's throw to the plate was wide and allowed Markakis to score.

Hernandez tapped Longoria on the shoulder as Longoria made his way back to third base.

“I said, 'Don't worry about it,' ” Hernandez said. “He made a good play for me earlier in the game. I don't worry about it. He didn't want to make a throw like that.”

Ryan Flaherty grounded to second for what would have been the final out. Instead, it scored the second run of the inning and gave the Orioles a 5-1 lead.

That's two runs without hitting the ball out of the infield.

“The two runs on the infield outs were kind of the ones that broke our back,” Maddon said.


rmooney@tampatrib.com

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