The Orioles wrapped up the 11-day road trip with an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon. It was a game soured by a surprisingly bad Kevin Gausman performance and an enigmatic offense that stopped threatening after early success.
It all started so brightly for the Orioles offense. Sergio Romo was deployed as the starter for the second time in this series. Much like they did the first time, the O’s smacked him around a bit. A one-out Pedro Alvarez walk and singles from Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop loaded the bases for Chris Davis, who is still hitting in the fifth spot in the order for some unknown reason.
Romo made way for former Oriole Vidal Nuno, fresh off of a call-up from Triple-A Durham. His first batter, Davis, drove in the first run of the day with a long sacrifice fly ball to center field, scoring Alvarez. Following an intentional walk to lefty-killer Danny Valencia, Nuno also issued a free pass to Chance Sisco, scoring Machado. Craig Gentry put the finishing touches on the inning by dropping a surprise bunt down the third base line to bring in Schoop. Nuno fielded it cleanly put was unable to contort his body to make a good throw home for the force out. Instead, he opted to go to first with it, but Gentry had already beaten the throw.
It was such a different way to watch this Orioles team operate. They were able to score by going station to station and forcing the opposing pitchers to work a little bit. It was great! Even Jim Palmer couldn’t contain his excitement up in the MASN booth.
That would prove to be the high point. The Orioles pitching couldn’t hold down the Tampa offense, and the Bird bats failed to cash in on several good opportunities.
Brad Miller led off the Rays half of the first inning with a solo home run to left field. No big deal right? But it would be a harbinger of things to come for Kevin Gausman.
The O’s starter made it through the rest of the opening frame and the entirety of the second inning with little issue. He wouldn’t be so lucky later on.
Christian Arroyo walked, Rob Refsnyder singled and Brad Miller doubled to open the third inning. Just like that, the Rays had scored twice and had another runner in scoring position with no outs. After striking out C.J. Cron, Gausman got right back into trouble. A Joey Wendle single scored Miller. Then a single by Wilson Ramos and a Daniel Robertson walk loaded the bags.
It was pretty clear that Gausman didn’t have “it”, whatever “it” is. He was struggling mightily with his command. Everything was way out of the zone or right in the middle of the plate.
Mallex Smith drove in the fourth run of the inning with a ground out to second base. Gausman followed that by hitting Carlos Gomez with a pitch to load the bases once again, and then put a cap on his afternoon by allowing a single to Arroyo to score the fifth and sixth runs of that frame. At that point, he was mercifully relieved of his duties by (gulp) Mike Wright Jr.
This was Gauman’s worst outing of the season. Over 2.2 innings, he allowed seven runs on six hits, two walks, two hit by pitches and one strikeout. These things happen, but it’s disappointing in a game like this. The O’s had the chance to salvage the road trip a bit by winning a series away from Camden Yards. They needed Gausman to step up, and he couldn’t do it.
That said, the Orioles offense did little to help themselves after an exciting first inning. It would have been nice to get more out of that opening frame than three runs. They loaded the bases again in the third inning, but couldn’t score at all. Jace Peterson led off the ninth inning with a double, but the top of the order was unable to drive him in. Perhaps the poor effort from Gausman killed the offense’s momentum, but to not score against the likes of Nuno and Austin Pruitt is pretty disheartening.
Gentry and Schoop both went 2-for-4 at the plate. Machado had a 1-for-5 day. Trey Mancini had the toughest game. He went 1-for-5, but left the bases loaded in the top of the third, which could have put the game away early. A key hit there may have changed the way Gausman approached the rest of his outing. It didn’t happen, and the rest is history.
Wright Jr. was actually pretty good out of the ‘pen. He worked out of Gauaman’s mess and was able to deliver 2.2 scoreless innings while working around two hits, two walks, a hit by pitch and striking out five.
Pedro Araujo came in and tossed 1.2 innings, but was victim to a massive Gomez home run to left field. It was a mighty DONG, but didn’t really factor into a game that was already lost.
Tanner Scott entered in the eighth inning to make back-to-back appearances in the bigs for the first time all season. He did a nice job despite allowing a walk and a hit. He induced two ground balls that should have been double plays. Luckily the second one worked out to end the threat.
A game that started out so exciting ended on a poor note. The Orioles now head back home to begin a three-game set with the nearby Washington Nationals. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. at Camden Yards. Alex Cobb (1-6, 7.32 ERA) is on the bump for the Birds. He will be opposed by Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.38 ERA). Have a happy Memorial Day, Birdland!