ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – All last season, the Orioles’ bullpen seemed infallible. Of course it wasn’t, but it just seemed that way. One of the worries about this season’s team was that the bullpen wouldn’t be quite as good. On Wednesday night, it was downright dreadful.
Luis Ayala gave up two runs in the sixth, Pedro Strop, who was so impressive during the World Baseball Classic, allowed three in the seventh and Tommy Hunter gave up a game-winning home run as the Orioles lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 before 15,599 at Tropicana Field.
Matt Joyce hit a 3-1 pitch from Hunter (0-1) in the right field stands for the decisive run. Last year, the Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games. Now, they’re 0-1.
Hunter pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and had the Orioles gone ahead in the ninth, Jim Johnson would have come into the game. Instead, the game was tied, and Hunter stayed in.
“It’s just all about executing pitches. I wasn’t able to do that throughout the second inning. Game’s over,” Hunter said.
A year ago, home run balls were Hunter’s downfall. He gave up a league-leading 32, and he found himself back in the minors.
“I left a pitch in the middle. He put a good swing on it. It was just not an executed pitch,” Hunter said.
For a while, it looked as if the Orioles would win their first two games of the season. They took a 4-0 lead and again scored with two outs.
The first 11 runs the Orioles scored this season came with two outs.
The Orioles scored seven runs in each of their first two games and have 24 hits, but only a 1-1 record.
“We needed one more and some nights you've got to figure out a way. We came real close and I'm proud of the way our offense kept battling back,” Showalter said.
In the first, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones singled with two outs, and then Chris Davis launched his second home run in as many games for a 3-0 lead.
Wei-Yin Chen gave up four hits in the first three innings, benefiting from three double plays.
In the sixth, Davis’ two-out single drove in Manny Machado, who doubled to left.
Davis has seven RBIs. He’s the first Oriole to have three or more RBI in each of his first two games.
“We didn’t hand anything to them, they went out there and took it. I saw flashbacks of last year, when [it looked like] we were going into extra innings. But what is this, Game 2? We’ve got a few left to play,” Davis said.
With a 4-0 lead, Chen allowed a two-out double to Desmond Jennings in the sixth, and with two outs, Ben Zobrist’s RBI single scored Jennings.
Ayala relieved Chen, and gave up a single to Evan Longoria and a three-run home run to Shelley Duncan that tied the score at 4.
Chen pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, striking out four.
“My control and my command wasn’t there early in the game. I just tried to throw strikes, and it’s hard for me especially [because] they swing at everything. It was hard for me in the beginning,” Chen said through his translator
In the seventh, Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson walked Nolan Reimold with one out. Brian Roberts singled, and Reimold scored on Nate McLouth’s single.
Hellickson was charged with five runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Rays scored three against Strop when Joyce and Kelly Johnson singled with one out. With Desmond Jennings at bat, Strop threw one that bounced and glanced off Matt Wieters’ mitt for a wild pitch to score Joyce. James Loney doubled for a 6-5 lead. Zobrist’s RBI single made it 7-5.
“It’s frustrating because they scored a couple runs and we had a chance to win that game and they just scored a couple runs on some crazy stuff but I just tried to keep my mind in the game,” Strop said.
In the eighth, Davis doubled with two outs. It was his fourth hit, equaling a career high. Against Joel Peralta, Wieters singled to score him.
In the top of the ninth, Fernando Rodney (1-0) walked Reimold to lead off. Roberts’ RBI double scored Reimold. McLouth’s bunt moved Roberts to third, but Machado and Markakis both grounded to short to keep the game tied at 7.
Rodney and Strop were keys to the Dominican Republic winning the World Baseball Classic, and neither was effective in the game. A year ago, Rodney allowed just five earned runs in 76 appearances for a 0.60 ERA.
NOTE: The Orioles finish the series on Thursday afternoon at 3:10 when Miguel Gonzalez faces Roberto Hernandez.