"What the hell, offense? You can't get me more than one run?" (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Maybe it's just me, but geez, this game was a total snoozefest. I guess there was a (short-lived) flurry of excitement in the bottom of the ninth, but the eight-and-a-half innings before that were dull city. Nothing interesting. Nothing unique. Nothing to excite the Camden Yards crowd. Not much to say at all. The Orioles received their seventh straight quality start from a starting pitcher, but the slumbering O's offense garnered just one run all night. And that's it. Drive home safely.
I guess there's a little more to say. Wei-Yin Chen, as he usually does, delivered a fine outing for the Birds. He pitched into the seventh inning and held the Rays to just four hits while striking out five. Unfortunately for Chen, his offense gave him such little support that he would've had to throw a shutout to garner a win out of this game. He did not. He really made only one bad pitch all night, a hanging breaking ball that Brooks Conrad-- the man with the backwards name-- clubbed into the left-field seats for a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth.
Chen had some bad luck in the sixth, though he got himself into trouble by walking the leadoff man, B.J. Upton. With Ben Zobrist at the plate, Chen apparently flinched while standing on the mound and was called for a balk, and his disbelieving pleas to the umps were perhaps the most upset I've ever seen him on the mound. The Rays inexplicably had Zobrist-- their number three hitter, mind you-- lay down a bunt to move over the runner, even though he was already in scoring position. Oh, Joe Maddon. I thought you were cool. Jeff Keppinger followed with a duck-snort bloop single into shallow right to plate the Rays' third and final run.
Alas, three runs was far too big a deficit for the Orioles to overcome, given their offensive futility on this night. Rays starter and FIP-defying deity Jeremy Hellickson lived up to his reputation; he didn't blow the ball past hitters but instead racked up outs by inducing weak contact. In the first four innings, six Orioles were retired on lazy pop flies, though finally Adam Jones was able to get a hold of one and crank a mammoth homerun into the upper bullpen in center field. With his 95th homer as a Bird, Jones takes sole possession of 22nd place on the all-time O's homerun list! Sorry, Mike Devereaux. You had a good run.
And that was it for the Orioles' offense tonight. The O's managed only three hits in 6 ⅓ innings against Hellickson, the last one a Nick Markakis double in the sixth (he was stranded, of course). And while Hellickson struck out just four of the 22 batters he faced, the Rays' bullpen more than made up for it. Three relievers came in and threw gas, recording six of their eight outs on Ks. Jake McGee struck out both batters he faced and Joel Peralta fanned two in a perfect eighth.
The Orioles attempted a last-gasp rally in the ninth. All-Star closer Fernando Rodney struggled with his control, surrendering back-to-back walks with one out to J.J. Hardy and Jim Thome. O's fans, who'd had little to cheer for all night, finally came to life, hoping for some last at-bat Orioles magic. The noise level grew even louder when Rodney fell behind Jones 3-0 in the count.
The rally, though, was soon snuffed. Rodney battled his way back against Jones, throwing a called strike and then getting him to wave at two nasty changeups. I can't blame Adam for that one-- Rodney threw some absolutely filthy pitches when he needed to. The Rays closer had a much easier time with the horribly slumping Matt Wieters, who can't buy a hit from the left side of the plate right now. Rodney unfurled the changeup again, getting Wieters to wave over one for a game-ending strikeout. There you go. All done. Told you this game was a snoozefest.