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Rays blank O’s, complete first sweep of the season

Tyler Wells struggled in his first start of the season while the Orioles failed to record a hit with runners in scoring position.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Wells was never going to pitch deep into today’s game at Tampa Bay. The Orioles expected the converted starter to pitch three or four innings in his season debut. Unfortunately, Wells failed to make it through the second.

Wells turned in a scoreless first before being tagged for four runs in the second inning. The Rays added four more runs in the seventh, and the Orioles refused to record a hit with runners in scoring position. Tampa Bay completed the sweep of Baltimore with an 8-0 victory.

Wells walked Yandy Diaz and Josh Lowe to start the second frame. Harold Ramirez loaded the bases with an infield single which triggered a meeting on the mound. Mike Zunino drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly, and Manuel Margot plated another with a grounder to first base.

Wells had an opportunity to minimize the damage after two productive outs for the Rays, but Brandon Lowe had other ideas. Lowe tagged a no-doubter to the right field seats that doubled the lead and chased Wells from the game.

Wells finished the outing with 52 pitches (32 strikes), 3 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. The Rays worked several deep counts, and Wells struggled to put hitters away after the first two strikes. He struck out Lowe and Randy Arozarena in the first inning, but let a few batters off the hook in the second. Lowe’s homer came on 1-2 fastball.

Like many things this season, Wells’ conversion from late-inning reliever to starting pitcher is a work in progress. Wells must adjust to facing batters a second time through the lineup and demonstrate an ability to put hitters away. He will not be defined by this outing alone.

The Orioles had planned to utilize a long reliever after Wells but that never materialized. Dean Kremer warmed up early but never entered the game. He could be a candidate to start on Tuesday.

Felix Bautista replaced Wells in the second inning to mark his Major League debut. Bautista used two fastballs to get ahead of Wander Franco before sitting him down with a changeup outside of the strike zone. Bautista remained in the game and tossed a scoreless third inning that included a strikeout of Arozarena.

Joey Krehbiel relieved Bautista and delivered two scoreless frames of his own. Bryan Baker worked a clean sixth inning before running into trouble in the seventh. Margot reached base with a generous “infield single” that spared Rougned Odor an error at second base. Brandon Hyde summoned Paul Fry from the ‘pen and the wheels fell off.

Fry struggled against the Rays last season and those same demons came back to haunt him today. Fry coughed up a hit to Lowe and a two-run single to Franco that gave the Rays a six-run lead. Ji-Man Choi scored another with a double to left field and Harold Ramirez capped the scoring with a single to left field.

The Orioles had 11 base runners in the contest but finished a dreadful 0-9 with runners in scoring position. Ryan Mountcastle lined out to the warning track with two on in the seventh inning, and Trey Mancini just missed a home run with a liner off the left field wall in the eighth.

The Orioles managed just one win against the Rays last season. They will have to wait until at least the second series to record a victory against Tampa this year. You can’t win when you don’t score, and 10 men left on base will not win you many ball games.

The Orioles will have a chance to pick up their first win of the year during the home opener tomorrow afternoon. Local product Bruce Zimmermann is set to face Adrian House of the Brewers at 3:05 p.m.

Update: Dean Kremer suffered a left oblique strain warming up today.