Gonzalez has first-batter issues again, and lots more (O’s down 7-1)

You’ve heard of pitchers who struggle in the first inning?

Miguel Gonzalez struggles with the first batter.

Gonzalez served up a home run to the leadoff hitter tonight for the second time in four starts. Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings found the left field seats on the first pitch thrown by Gonzalez - one fewer pitch than it took for Detroit’s Austin Jackson to give the Tigers a quick lead back on July 15 at Camden Yards.

Gonzalez’s troubles didn’t stop there. They just got worse.

He allowed five runs - two more than he had surrendered in any of his three previous starts - and four hits, walked a batter and hit two. His pitch count already is up to 36.

The Orioles’ streak of quality starts ends at seven.

Gonzalez almost hit Matt Joyce in the head before striking him out. He walked Jeff Keppinger, gave up an RBI single to Carlos Pena on a ball that took a nasty hop past second baseman Omar Quintanilla, and hit Ryan Roberts and Jose Lobaton in succession. He barely grazed Lobaton’s sleeve while forcing in a run.

No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson followed with a two-run single into left field. The Orioles caught a break when Johnson ran halfway to second, found Lobaton near the bag and couldn’t get back to first before Mark Reynolds applied the tag.

Gonzalez allowed one home run at Triple-A Norfolk. He’s given up five in his four starts with the Orioles.

The Orioles cut the lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the first against Rays left-hander David Price, getting a leadoff single by Nick Markakis, a wild pitch and J.J. Hardy’s RBI single.

Update: Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

Gonzalez lasted only 2 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs and seven hits, walked two, struck out two, gave up two home runs, threw a wild pitch and hit three batters. He threw 75 pitches, 44 for strikes, before manager Buck Showalter ran out of patience.

Roberts, in his first game with the Rays, hit a two-run homer with two outs in the third. Lobaton singled, Johnson walked and Jennings was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Matt Lindstrom, playing the part of long reliever tonight, retired B.J. Upton to finally end the inning.

Jennings and Upton each batted three times before Orioles left fielder Steve Tolleson came to the plate for the first time.

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