Panic time may soon be setting into Birdland, as the O's losing streak has now reached five games. To be fair, the O's were going up against a tough lefty in Matt Moore. Moore is pitching brilliantly this year, but not all of it is talent: he came into today's start with a .198 BABIP so far this year. When I saw that stat, I thought the offense might have a chance. Chris Tillman gave us every opportunity to win it, giving up three runs (two via the long ball) in six innings, but the O's bats just couldn't find a groove against Moore.
Each starter was perfect through their first two innings. Tillman ran into trouble with two outs in the top of the 3rd, when he walked the #9 hitter Yunel Escobar. He then went to 3-2 on Desmond Jennings, who slapped a double into left field. Escobar, who was running on contact, scored easily to make it 1-0 Tampa Bay.
It looked like the Orioles' bats might even things up in the bottom half. Danny Valencia, who has great CON and PWR against lefties in MLB '13 The Show, led off with a double. Yamaico Navarro sacrificed him to third, putting the tying run 90 feet away with just one out. I jumped when Chris Snyder grounded out to shortstop, but Valencia was not running on contact, so he stayed put. Nick Markakis then grounded out to second base to end the threat.
The next bit of excitement came an inning later, in the bottom of the fourth. Manny Machado lofted a tough but playable fly ball to right-center. Lucky for us, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce had what we call a failure to communicate and the ball slipped past them. Machado wound up on third base with a triple that could have just as easily been a leadoff out (or an error on Jennings or Joyce). Adam Jones then singled to tie the game at 1. It was only the second hit Moore has given up all year with RISP. Chris Davis then struck out, and although Jones stole both second and third base while Steve Pearce was at the plate, the inning ended quietly.
Luke Scott homered leading off the 5th to put the Rays ahead 2-1. After a groundout by Kelly Johnson and a strikeout by Jose Lobaton, Tillman faced Escobar again, and this time, it was just as tough to get him out. On a 1-2 count, Escobar appeared to whiff on a checked swing. His bat went pretty far around, well in front of the plate, but 1B umpire Dan Iassogna ruled no swing. Escobar eventually struck out looking, but not before forcing Tillman to throw six more pitches. The O's went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half.
Things got interesting again in the top of the 6th, when, with one out, Matt Joyce appeared to hit a double into the right-field corner. I say "appeared to", because that's how it was ruled initially. Nick Markakis thought the ball was foul, though, and so did Buck Showalter because he came out of the dugout to complain. This brought Joe Maddon out of his dugout, and pretty soon fans were treated to a giant meeting of minds on the field.
The confusion arose because of two reasons: one, no replay was used initially. You can't replay fair-foul calls, and that's what this play seemed to be about. Two, even in the replay, the ball struck close to the metal support at the very base of the right-field foul pole. This part of the pole isn't painted yellow, which is weird. Even the MASN broadcasters disagreed about whether the ball struck in fair or foul territory.
At some point, perhaps when the Tampa Bay coaches had a chance to look at their clubhouse TVs and bring the possibility of a home run to Maddon's attention, the umpires indeed went back to review the video. They came out of the tunnel signaling home run. Joyce circled the bases, and it was 3-1 Rays. Tillman escaped the rest of the inning without incident, although when James Loney fouled a ball down the first-base line, O's fans in that section derisively signaled for a home run.
The rest of the game passed scorelessly. T.J. McFarland replaced Tillman in the 7th and gave up two hits and a walk in 2.1 IP. The Rays loaded the bases against him and Pedro Strop in the top of the 9th, but nobody scored. Fernando Rodney, who'd been erratic, then came in and got Davis, Nate McLouth, and J.J. Hardy 1-2-3. And sweep.
And so the O's losing streak extends to five games. The team looks for better results when the Yankees come to town on Monday.