Tonight was not the Orioles night. They were shut down by Rays starter Alex Cobb and while Wei-Yin Chen wasn't bad, he was unable to work around a rare Manny Machado error that led to a rally for the Rays. And while the O's bats tried to wage a last-minute comeback, they ultimately fell short.
First things first: the Yankees demolished the Red Sox and their AAA lineup tonight, 10-2, so the Orioles loss again put them one game back in the AL East. I don't have any faith that the Red Sox can win either of the next two games, but I guess we'll just have to hope.
On to the game. Cobb was fantastic tonight, using a small strike zone from umpire Angel Hernandez to his advantage. The Orioles didn't have a baserunner until the fourth inning, when J.J. Hardy hit a soft single to left field with one out. The second runner came in the fifth inning on a Jim Thome walk, but neither he nor Hardy were able to get past first base.
Chen kept up with Cobb until the fourth inning when Ben Zobrist launched a mammoth home run to left field, giving the Rays a one-run lead. For most of the game it looked like the 1-0 lead would hold up, but finally in the seventh inning Matt Wieters was able to solve Cobb, if only for a moment. Remember that cut out in the right field fence? The one originally put in so that Carl Crawford could make dramatic defensive plays, and where Evan Longoria's game winning home run in game 162 landed? That's right where Wieters put it, and it tied the game 1-1.
Unfortunately, the tie lasted less than an inning. In the bottom half of the seventh, Longoria hit a ground ball to Manny Machado at third base. The normally stellar 3B bobbled the ball and Longoria reached, setting off an unfortunate chain of events. Jeff Keppinger singled to right field and Longoria went to third and then came in on a sacrifice fly from Ben Francisco.
At that point I was thinking, ok, just get a double play ball and get out of it. The O's can get at least one more run. But that didn't happen. Sam Fuld singled, again putting runners at the corners with one out, and after a pop out from Ryan Roberts, Chris Giminez doubled in both runners. That made it 4-1, and finally Chen was pulled from the game. Luis Ayala got the final out.
I've had very little to question Buck Showalter about this season, but sending Chen out for the seventh without even having another person warming up was a head scratcher. Yes, he'd only given up one run at that point, but he'd gotten away with a number of mistakes throughout the game. And he's been unreliable lately, AND there have been questions of his fatigue.
To add insult to injury, Pedro Strop continued his recent woeful performance by allowing a run in the 8th inning on a double, a walk, and a ground out. I have just lost faith in Pedro.
With a four-run lead, the Rays didn't turn to their closer, Fernando Rodney, but rather Kyle Farnsworth. With Hardy on base via a single, Chris Davis hit his sixth home run in five games to make the score 5-3. Farnsworth was pulled for Rodney, and the O's fans were given hope by back-to-back singles from Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. But then Rodney remembered he is having a ridiculously good year and struck out Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds to get two outs.
The next batter due up was Robert Andino, and Buck sent in a pinch hitter. Good call, Buck! Wait...Endy Chavez? Are you kidding me? What kind of playoff team IS this? As expected, Endy did not get a hit. He grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.
Right now the A's are playing on the west coast, and winning 2-1 in the 3rd inning. If they go on to win the game, the Orioles will be tied for the top WC spot, which is bad. But also it would mean that the Rays would be eliminated, which would be good.