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Rays 12, Orioles 10: Defense and a Three-Run Homer Aren't Quite Enough

What could've been the biggest comeback win of the year didn't quite get there, as Jason Hammel kicked off a seventeen-game stretch by continuing his early-season struggles.

There aren't any pictures from tonight's game up yet, but you wouldn't know if not for the dugout.
There aren't any pictures from tonight's game up yet, but you wouldn't know if not for the dugout.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Two out of three ain't bad, as they say, but on some nights it isn't quite enough. This 12-10 loss was something of a roller-coaster ride: the Rays struck first, the O's went ahead immediately, the Rays turned it into a blowout, and the O's nearly made a tremendous comeback. Both teams had the same two parts of the Weaver Trifecta down, but despite Jeremy Hellickson's final line being little better than Jason Hammel's, the Rays edged the O's in the end.

Hammel started off less than well in the first inning, leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone and over the middle. A single and an opposite-field double put runners on second and third with one out and Evan Longoria coming up. His sac fly made it 1-0 Rays and moved the runner to third, but good range up the middle by Yamaico Navarro and a better scoop by Chris Davis prevented any further damage. Nate McLouth and Manny Machado did one better in the bottom of the inning, leading off with a single and a double of their own. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones followed with poor at-bats, chasing pitcher's pitches and balls to pop up and strike out, but Davis picked them up with a line-drive single to right, making it 2-1 O's.

Hammel fared a bit better in the second, though he was still unable to command his curveball and continued to throw fastballs high in the zone. He gave up two singles, but his slider was the one pitch working for him, and he managed to get two strikeouts and escape the jam. In the bottom of the inning, just as Jim Palmer mentioned that J.J. Hardy has been "doing what he does so well, which is hit home runs," the latter singed a fliner to left to add another to his total, extending the Orioles' lead to 3-1.

Hammel's command was no better in the third, and he allowed two more singles and another sac fly to make it a one-run game again. He almost made it out of the inning after that, but Luke Scott and Kelly Johnson each had a borderline call go his way, resulting in a walk and a three-run homer: 5-3 Rays. After a surprisingly solid fourth inning, including a great third out made by Machado, Hammel went back to sucking, giving up a single, walk, and RBI would-be double (single and out, thanks to Markakis) before being pulled for Alex Burnett. Burnett showed why he hadn't gotten into a game before, giving up a walk, ground-rule double, and single, making it 9-3. Were I not doing the recap tonight, I'd have turned the game off and started playing Civilization V.

Nothing terribly interesting happened until the eighth inning, which began with a 12-4 Rays lead and a fan running onto the field. Brian Matusz put in the Orioles' first good pitching performance of the night, setting down the Rays in order with a strikeout of Luke Scott. In the bottom of the inning, the O's batted around and scored six runs, capped by a three-run shot by Chris Dickerson, his first of the year. Pedro Strop pitched well in a one-two-three ninth, but Joel Peralta did the same, and the comeback fell short.

Losing sucks, and almost-but-not-quite coming back sometimes sucks even more. Yet, the worst part about this game may be that four relievers had to be used for the first of seventeen straight games, and the rotation is so unstable right now that the bullpen could have to throw another four-plus innings on any given day. Jair Jurrjens will take the ball in a FOX blackout game tomorrow; let's hope he makes it through at least the fifth.