ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - James Loney led off the bottom of the seventh inning tonight with a single into left-center field, putting the tying run on base against Orioles starter Jason Hammel. Desmond Jennings stepped to the plate, and a few Orioles anticipated a bunt to move Loney into scoring position.
Jennings swung at the first pitch and launched a two-run homer to center field.
“I went up there thinking he might bunt him over,” said Manny Machado following the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Rays. “It’s late in the game, get the runner over, try and get some runs. He went up there aggressive and swung at the first pitch.”
“I’d been feeding him fastballs all night and getting away with it,” Hammel said. “Not necessarily getting away with it, but making good pitches. That one caught the middle and I’m sure he was sitting on it. Big league hitters don’t miss mistakes too many times.”
Hammel didn’t make many of them tonight.
“Threw well, threw well,” Machado said. “Just that one inning. Really one mistake. It was a great pitch. Jennings just jumped on top of it, but I think he pitched well. Threw great through seven innings. Just came up short.”
“Baseball is a funny game sometimes,” Hammel said. “You can have a pitchers’ duel, you can have a slugfest. I like the pitching duel because it’s fun, it’s suspenseful and it means both guys are on their game and executing pitches. Tonight, it just ended up being the one run that cost us and myself, the team, the game. It sucks, but we have plenty more games to play. It was honestly just a good game tonight.”
And Hammel got to stick around for 6 2/3 innings after being ejected in the fourth in his last start.
“I was happy to just get back out there,” Hammel said. “Last one left a bad taste in your mouth, especially when you’re told to leave the game, you can’t finish what you are trying to do. It was nice to come back with a good effort and we’ll try to keep it going.”
On any night, the Orioles will take their chances allowing only two runs. They expect to win these games.
“We do,” said Adam Jones. “The thing is, even with the one-run game, we still liked our chances. A bloop and a blast and we’re up, or just a blast. We’re always in striking distance. We didn’t look like we were today, but we’re always within striking distance. We always go out and compete. Sometimes you get beat, and in a 2-1 game, we just got beat.”
Chris Archer, making only his second start this season, retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced and tied his career high by going seven innings.
“We lined out a lot,” Jones said. “His defense made some really nice plays and the kid is good. He’s got plus stuff. Everything he throws is plus. And it’s going to be exciting to see his maturation over basically this year and the rest of his career, because he’s one special talent. He’s a product of their pitching. You’ve just got to see how (David) Price, (Jeremy) Hellickson and the rest of their pitchers teach them how to basically learn more at the big league level. I think that kid’s got a very, very bright future.
“He got ahead strike one and he was able to do whatever he wanted. We had some pitches to hit and lined out a few times. We found the barrel, but you hit it right at somebody. They have some people who can hit the ball pretty well. You tip your cap to the man. He went out there and did what he did. So did our guy. Basically, it was one pitch that I’m sure Hammel wants back.”