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  • May

    Outdueled Orioles lose 3-to-1

    Written by Mike Laws


    Moore records MLB-best eighth win as Rays complete sweep

    Tampa Bay 3, Orioles 1



    Somebody, quick, book this team a ticket out of town! Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing those pristine home whites as much as the next guy — but jeez, has this slate of games at Oriole Park ever been a demon hell-ride. Today’s developments only confirmed as much; where the prior four losses could be chalked up to poor pitching performances — either from the starters (as in Freddy Garcia’s outing against the Padres) or the relievers (Jim Johnson’s twin blown saves) or both (the one-two facepalm that was Jason Hammel and Alex Burnett, on Friday night) — here, in the Sunday-afternoon finale against Tampa, we saw something new: some good old-fashioned bad luck. For while the Birds enjoyed a largely excellent performance from Chris Tillman, and while the bullpen got back to its typical rock-solidity, fate had it that the team would have to stare down burgeoning Rays ace Matt Moore …


    The bullet points, then:


    • Among Moore’s many eye-popping 2013 statistics, one stands out in especial relief: Entering play today, the guy had given up one base hit with a runner in scoring position. And whether you look at that as a product of not allowing a whole lot of men on in the first place, or of a preternatural ability to bear down and come up with big outs, when he does — in either case, Oriole hitters were always going to be up against it. Even so, you have to say the Birds wasted two glorious opportunities in this particular ballgame — we’re not talking about a man on second with two out, here. On three separate occasions the home team got a runner to third with fewer than two down; on only one of those opportunities would that runner come in to score. Which means, yes, that now Moore had given up his second hit with someone in scoring position, putting the Orioles in something like rarefied statistical air, but still: Could’ve, and probably should’ve, done more. In the third it was a Danny Valencia double to deep center (btw, nice to meet you, Danny!), followed by a sacrifice bunt from Yamaico Navarro, that set up the chance; Chris Snyder and Nick Markakis followed with meek groundouts to the middle infield (Snyder’s with that infield drawn in, as Joe Maddon is wont to do, even in the early going). In the fourth it was Manny Machado leading off with a triple to right-center (a generous ruling, perhaps, as someone should’ve flagged the liner down — center fielder Desmond Jennings and right fielder Matt Joyce, having converged on the same patch of grass, both pulled up lest they collide, allowing the ball to fly on past and roll to the base of the wall). Adam Jones would follow with one of several nice at-bats on the day, working the count into his favor at 2-1 before roping a liner just out of reach of shortstop Yunel Escobar. That made it 1-1. Hooray! But don’t get too hopped-up just yet. Following a swinging strikeout of Chris Davis, Jones took it upon himself to advance to primer real estate, swiping second three pitches into Steve Pearce’s turn at the dish, then, on the fourth, stealing third too (Jones didn’t even draw a throw, this time). Ah, so surely they have to grab the lead here, right? Wrong! Pearce popped out to shallow left, then J.J. Hardy flied out to center. The Machado run would hold up as the only one of the ballgame for the O’s, who would get a runner into scoring position just once more (in the sixth), again failing to deliver … 


    • And good as he was today, Tillman made two too many mistakes to keep pace with Moore. Having walked Escobar with two away in the third, then surrendered a double to Jennings on a 3-2 pitch, plating Escobar (who, unluckily for the O’s, had had the advantage of running with the pitch), Tillman would hand the lead right back to the Rays, following that Oriole fourth, by way of a Luke Scott homer to right. And in the sixth — again on a 3-2 pitch — Tillman would give in to Matt Joyce, whose rocket to right clipped a little section of black iron beneath the foul pole but above the out-of-town scoreboard, and had to be video-reviewed before being confirmed as a home run, which still no one (apart, I guess, from the umps) seemed entirely sure of, given that Joyce’s shot had, literally, found its way into a black hole in the ground rules. Like I was saying, bad luck. In any case, the Rays were now done scoring for the day — with a tip of the hat to T.J. McFarland (two and a third innings of scoreless ball) and Pedro Strop (two-thirds, no runs) for their effort at keeping this thing close — but the grand total of three runs was more than enough for the visitors, as Moore made way, after his seven strong frames, for Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney, neither of whom permitted so much as a single baserunner. So 3-1 is your unfortunate final; the Orioles get swept for a second consecutive series at home; that’s five straight losses, with the Yankees coming into town tomorrow. This might get worse before it gets better …


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