Hammel's slow start and Valencia's reaction to batting cleanup (O's down 3-1)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel took the mound tonight at Tropicana Field in search of his first victory since May 27 in D.C.

It took the Rays two batters to get on the scoreboard and three batters for pitching coach Bill Castro to visit Hammel while T.J. McFarland began to throw in the bullpen.

It's September baseball, folks.

David DeJesus and Ben Zobrist hit back-to-back doubles to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Evan Longoria followed with single to put runners on the corners and put the Orioles in motion with Castro and McFarland.

Wil Myers popped up for the first out, but Matt Joyce's sharp grounder went through Chris Davis' legs for an error and a 2-0 lead. Joyce, who took second on the play, was credited with an RBI.

The Rays settled for two runs after James Loney grounded to Manny Machado, who did a nice job handling a tricky hop, and Sam Fuld grounded to Davis.

Fuld was a late addition to the lineup. Center fielder Desmond Jennings was scratched with neck stiffness.

Hammel threw 21 pitches in the inning. One of the runs was unearned.

Matt Wieters singled in the second to raise his average to .336 against the Rays since he broke into the majors in 2009. Michael Morse struck out to end the inning, making him 3-for-25 with the Orioles following a 3-for-34 slump with the Mariners before the July 31 trade.

Danny Valencia grounded into a force to end the top of the first after Davis' two-out single. He's now 3-for-32 as a cleanup hitter in the majors.

"I saw the lineup," Valencia said this afternoon after reporters approached his locker. "It seems like we're going pretty right-handed heavy early. It's a good lineup."

What about hitting fourth?

"I kind of approach it the same way I'd approach it hitting any other place in the lineup. Try to be selective," he said.

"It's just nice to be in the lineup in general, regardless of where I'm hitting. To have the confidence of the coaching staff, and especially Buck (Showalter) to put you out there is nice. It's refreshing.

"It feels good. I'm appreciative of it and grateful for it. And hopefully I can keep producing and help this team win."

Valencia is 9-for-13 against Rays left-hander David Price after his at-bat in the first. Does he see the ball better against Price?

"No, to be honest," Valencia said. "He's got great stuff and it's a shock my numbers are so good against him. But he's a great pitcher. He's tough. I don't have any solution to him. On any given day, I know he can dominate me."

Update: The Rays scored again in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead, and Josh Stinson began to warm in the bullpen.

Jose Molina led off with a double and actually took third base on a fly ball to Nick Markakis. He must have replaced the piano on his back with an electric keyboard.

Molina scored on DeJesus' sacrifice fly to left field, making it all the way to home plate without stopping for water.

Hammel is down 3-0 and he's thrown 35 pitches in two innings.

Update II: The Orioles scored once in the fifth, but they couldn't add more runs after loading the bases with no outs.

Morse walked, Brian Roberts singled and Manny Machado singled. Adam Jones followed with an infield hit to reduce Tampa Bay's lead to 3-1.

With the bases still loaded and no outs, Chris Davis struck out looking and Valencia grounded into a double play. Not good.


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