Victorious in six of their last eight games, the O’s (48-51) took to Tropicana Field Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays (51-49). With the trade deadline less than a week away, on the fringe of the race for the American League Wild Card – 3.5 games back – and on the fringe of the fringe for tops in the American League East – 6.0 games back – winning is the one thing Baltimore can control to make the rest of the season matter.
It is still July, most of the league is bunched together in the standings, so anything good, bad or middling is possible. Tonight, Wade Miley (4-8, 5.58) had the honors for the Birds in St. Petersburg, Florida, against Jacob Faria (4-1, 2.52).
Entering Tuesday, with only one win in his last six starts Miley had plenty of room for improvement, but in his career he’d been very successful at Tropicana Field, so there was hope at the 7:10ET first pitch. Unfortunately, the hope for a good start ended in the second inning.
Baltimore missed chances early
In the first, Manny Machado doubled and was stranded following back-to-back strikeouts. Starting the second inning, Trey Mancini singled the other way to right field, Seth Smith walked and the first two O’s were on base. On a 3-2 count, Welington Castillo smoked the ball to third, but it was a crisp double play for the first two outs.
Ruben Tejada followed, on another 3-2 count, with a smash to third – the second in a row right to Evan Longoria – and the inning was over. Evan Longoria is good. Two innings, two runners left in scoring position and no runs for Baltimore.
Tampa Bay didn’t miss chances early
Miley found familiar trouble in the second inning yielding singles to Steven Souza, Jr., Brad Miller and Adeiny Hechavarria to load the bases. Mallex Smith singled to center, making it 1-0 Rays, and the bases were still loaded with one out. In Monday’s game Tampa Bay was 0-7 with runners in scoring position. They turned that around in a hurry Tuesday.
Four straight singles, followed by a Jesus Sucre sacrifice fly to right and it was 2-0. Tim Beckham came to the plate and showed Wade Miley more of what the O’s pitcher has seen a lot of lately – getting rocked. One strike away from escaping the inning, Beckham homered to center and the Rays had five runs on five hits. The worst starting pitching in the American League was on full display again.
Jacob Faria keeps getting outs, O’s leave more runners on base
After the O’s had base runners, but no runs, in the first three innings, Jacob Faria delivered a smooth fourth. Seth Smith grounded out to third to start the inning, followed by Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo strikeouts.
Welington Castillo led off the fifth with a single to left, Joey Rickard had a one out single and up came hot hitting Adam Jones who answered with an infield single loading the bases. With three on, Manny Machado and a chance to make it a game. Manny nailed one to center, but it was caught for a sacrifice fly, and the lead was 5-1 for Tampa with two outs and runners on the corners. Jonathan Schoop – who had at least one RBI in eight straight games – weakly popped out to short center field and the rally was over.
Wade Miley’s familiar results
Following a walk and hit batter off Miley in the bottom of the fifth, the lefty escaped more damage with an inning ending double play. Through five, Miley had four clean innings, but the rough second was still the story of the game.
On a 3-1 count, Trey Mancini homered in the sixth to make it 5-2. The O’s were lurking, but still had a long way to climb back.
In the bottom of the inning, Miley threw pitch number 97, and retired the Rays in order. No doubt he was frustrated with the results of the outing. Considering his struggles the last few months, how maddening to have five good and one nightmare set Tuesday. Miley’s final line was six innings pitched, five hits and five runs – all in the second – along with three walks and four strikeouts.
Tommy Hunter pitches for Tampa Bay, O’s mount a comeback
Miguel Castro, his 20th appearance on the season, relieved Miley to start the seventh. Aided by Manny Machado’s arm and a runner caught stealing, he exited the inning with no damage, continuing his stellar season.
Jacob Faria, facing Baltimore for the third time in 2017, continued to deal into the eighth. He retired Machado, but Jonathan Schoop walked and having thrown over 100 pitches, Faria’s night was over. His end numbers were great for Tampa Bay fans – 7.1 innings pitched, seven hits, two runs, five strikeouts and two walks.
The Rays starter was replaced by a familiar face, Tommy Hunter, who retired Mark Trumbo on a bounce out and then Trey Mancini walked. Seth Smith represented the tying run and for his career, he was 5-8 with a homerun against Hunter. After a wild pitch advancing the runners to second and third, Smith walked loading the bases. Jim Hickey, long-time Rays pitching coach came out for a visit, and Welington Castillo had the game in his hands.
On a 1-2 pitch, Castillo singled to left, two runs scored, it was 5-4 Tampa Bay, and Baltimore had the tying run at second and go ahead run at first. Hyun Soo Kim pinch hit, Hunter was still in the game, and the result was a strikeout. More runners left on base for the O’s and a one run deficit.
Last chance for Baltimore
Castro left with two outs in the eighth, and Evan Longoria on base following a double. Donnie Hart entered to face Wilson Ramos, a former Washington National, who grounded out to Trey Mancini. In the top of the ninth, it was up to Joey Rickard, Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Rickard reached on an error, but Adam Jones hit the ball sharply into a double play. Longoria was nails all night at third base. With two outs and no one on, Machado singled to right, making him 6-15 lifetime against Alex Colome.
Up came Jonathan Schoop, who had not looked good all night racking up an 0-3, with a walk, before this at bat. Schoop singled, runners were on the corners, the tying run only 90 feet away. Mark Trumbo – who has had a number of last at bat heroics during 2017 – smoked a ball on the ground to short that ended in a force out.
The game was over. Channeling Gary Thorne’s comments, the Orioles made it a ballgame, but a loss is still a loss. On the night, Baltimore left nine runners on base and were 2-9 hitting with runners in scoring position.
Notes and looking ahead
Chris Davis didn’t start for a second straight game due to an illness.
Trey Mancini made a great play on a foul pop-up in the first inning against the Rays dugout. His defense at first and in the outfield has been quality all season.
With a third inning single, Adam Jones extended his hit streak to eight games. Jones has found a groove since moving to leadoff a few weeks ago.
Eight Rays came to the plate in Wade Miley’s disastrous second inning.
Miley’s third inning walk to Trevor Plouffe was number 60 on the year for the lefty. He leads the American League with that dubious stat.
Manny Machado had a great play on a broken bat ground ball in the seventh inning. That’s two days in a row showing off his glove and arm in a big way.
Buck Showalter was born in DeFuniak Springs, FL, a crisp 415 mile drive up the gulf coast from St. Petersburg, FL.
The Rays five game losing streak is officially over.
Tuesday was the 68th game in a row where the Rays had an extra base hit.
Jacob Faria has started nine games in his career. Eight qualify as quality starts.
The O’s are 6-5 against the Rays in 2017 and 27-21 against the AL East.
Wednesday at 12:10ET, Ubaldo Jimenez (4-6, 7.19) faces Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.57), at Tropicana Field.
Thursday is a day off for the Orioles before a weekend match-up against the Texas Rangers.