Rays 9, Orioles 8: Two out of three ain't bad

Nick Johnson #36 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates hittiing a solo home run in the eighth inning during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 13, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.

With the completion of today's game, the Baltimore Orioles have gone through thirteen of the fifteen games they'll play in the so-called gauntlet. The gauntlet concludes with two games against the Yankees tomorrow and Tuesday, and should they lose both of those games, they'll still finish the grueling 15-game stretch with a record of 8-7. Should they sweep the short series against the Yankees, their record over that period will be 10-5. Now wouldn't THAT be something?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Because there was a game today and the Orioles lost it. It's a lot easier to stomach a loss like this one, when the first two games of the series are already in the bag and the offense fought back to almost tie a game they at one point were losing 7-1.

Jake Arrieta got the start today and was very frustrating. He had his moments, like striking out three in the first inning, but he just couldn't get it together and was knocked out of the game in the fourth inning. He only walked two batters but both came around to score, and he gave up an astounding ten hits in just 3 2/3 innings. When he was pulled for Kevin Gregg with two outs in the fourth inning and the O's down 7-1, you could hardly blame Buck Showalter for going to the mop up guy. The Orioles still have awhile to go before their next off day and with James Shields on the mound, a six-run deficit is pretty discouraging.

But wait! Gregg wasn't awful! He got a ground out from Jeff Keppinger to end the inning, and after single by Will Rhymes to start the fifth inning, he got three quick outs.

After being stymied by Shields for five innings (their run in the third scored on an infield single for crying out loud), the Orioles finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth. Back-to-back doubles from J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis made the score 7-2, and after Adam Jones struck out, Matt Wieters hit his eighth home run of the year. It was Matt's second extra-base hit of the day and made the score 7-4.

The O's came within one run the next inning on another double by Markakis that knocked in Hardy and Robert Andino. Who is this guy with the home runs and doubles of late? Nice day at the plate for Nick.

Troy Patton went back out to the mound to pitch the top of the eight inning for the Orioles, and it turns out that wasn't a great idea. Patton replaced Gregg at the start of the sixth inning and looked fantastic. He struck out the side and then came back in the seventh for another perfect inning. But in the eighth, he lost it. Back-to-back home runs from Elliot Johnson and Ben Zobrist again pushed the Rays to a three-run lead. What a bummer after the clawing back the offense had done. But it's hard to blame Patton, and even Showalter admitted he left him in too long.

The hitters did their best to come back, but they just couldn't get there. Nick Johnson homered (I know!) in the bottom of the eighth, and in the ninth they just fell short of tying the game. Ryan Flaherty led off the inning and reached on an error (how bad were the Rays on D this series?), then with two outs, Markakis walked. One single by Adam Jones later and the score was 9-8 with Markakis on third, Jones on second (he got there on ANOTHER error), and Wieters was at the plate. He hit a grounder to third that Sean Rodriquez just got a glove on, and the long throw to first got Wieters by a step to end the game. And you know that if it only beat Wieters by a step, most other Orioles would be safe. Oh well.

Tomorrow the Yankees come to town and Jason Hammel is pitching. Yay! I can't wait.

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