ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The third time through the order didn’t trip up Andrew Cashner today. He struggled right out of the gate, with five runs allowed through the second inning and 12 baserunners against him as the game progressed through the fourth.
The Orioles weren’t in come-to-the-rescue mode. They didn’t have a hit until Danny Valencia’s leadoff triple in the fifth and stranded him as part of a frustrating afternoon and a 5-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Cashner was removed with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth and the Orioles down 5-0. He allowed 15 baserunners and was charged with five runs to go with 11 hits and four walks after Tanner Scott struck out the next three batters.
Cashner hasn’t completed six innings in five of his last six starts and his ERA increased to 5.07. He owes Scott, who struck out Brad Miller on a 98 mph fastball and C.J. Cron and Joey Wendle on nasty 89 mph sliders.
The loss prevented the Orioles, now 17-35 overall and 7-22 on the road, from stringing together three victories in a row and locking up their second road series of the season. The road trip ends Sunday afternoon.
Ryne Stanek, making his first career start as the latest Rays reliever to change roles, retired all five batters he faced with three strikeouts. Left-hander Anthony Banda replaced him and walked Davis before retiring the next seven.
Teams were batting .221 against Cashner the first time through the order, .214 through the second and .426 through the third. The Rays didn’t wait, scoring twice in the first inning on Wendle’s RBI triple and Wilson Ramos’ double. Rob Refsnyder had an RBI single in the second and Cron plated two runs with a two-out double.
Wendle began the day 12-for-28 in seven career games against the Orioles, who have been outscored 62-24 in the first inning this season.
Seven of the first 11 batters reached against Cashner, but the Rays did their part again to assist the Orioles by running into outs. Ramos went in standing on his double, his foot came off the bag and he was tagged out. Ramos was doubled off first base on a fly ball to right field in the third. Carlos Gomez slipped while rounding their base on Refsnyder’s single in the fourth and he was out 9-4-5-2-5-1 in a rundown.
The Orioles have committed only four errors through 10 games of the road trip, including Miguel Castro’s fielding blunder on a comebacker in the eighth inning, but they contributed to the sloppy play. Valencia failed to backhand a ball in the fourth that was ruled an infield hit for Daniel Robertson. Gomez’s ground ball should have produced a double play, but Jonathan Schoop made a poor throw to Machado and the Orioles settled for the force.
(It was “Star Wars Day,” but let’s move away from that joke.)
Gomez followed with his baserunning blunder and back-to-back two-out walks to load the bases didn’t harm Cashner. Somehow, he got through the inning without allowing a run, and he retired the side in order in the fifth on only 10 pitches.
Cashner couldn’t record an out in the sixth and the Orioles couldn’t muster enough offense to spare him the loss, his sixth in eight decisions. Banda held them to one run and three hits over 6 1/3 innings in his piggyback starting role. He accounted for seven of the Rays’ 11 strikeouts.
It had to leave the Orioles C-3PO’d.
Manager Buck Showalter on what was wrong with Cashner: “Just command and just not a real good feel for an out pitch. He kept searching for it. Tribute to him to get through five. Tanner had a lot to do with that. A lot of singles. They had a good, I’m not sure if approach or not, it’s just the way it looked. Some of them found holes and ground balls. But the story is us scoring three runs in two games. Certainly, the pitcher’s part of that. You have to pitch a 1-0 shutout.
“Tanner and Miguel were really good. Put some zeros up there after the first two innings. I’ll give Cash credit for that. A lot of guys wouldn’t have made it through that.”
Showalter on defense: “The rundown wasn’t very good. The double play was, our clock was a little off because you get a ball hit that hard, you can slow down a little bit. He had a little more time to feed there and Trey just couldn’t quite come up with the low throw. That rundown was the one that kind of stuck in my craw a little bit. We work on that a lot. We got an out out of it, but there’s a better way to do it.
“Miguel was out here at 11 o’clock this morning in the sim game working on his times to the plate and stuff. See that growing. And Tanner. I’ll take some positives out of that.”
Showalter on how offensive tempo hurt when down early: “Yeah, I think that’s an excuse that, not an excuse, but that’s an obvious thing that we probably have done it enough that we really can’t use that. We’re just not swinging the bats well. We’ve scored three runs in two games and it’s hard for any pitcher to basically have to have a 1-0 shutout to win today.”
Showalter on Scott: “Because people have to cheat to the fastball, the pitch recognition on the slider is not as good. Player development group has done a great job with him and his slider and just a lot of things.”
Showalter on whether reliever as starter is making it tough: “No, it’s been a challenge for us all year regardless of who’s pitching the first or second or third or fourth inning. No, I wish I could use that as an excuse.”
Cashner on making it through the fifth: “For me, it’s always the warrior mentality. Just keep making pitches. Never really feel like you want to give in. Keep making pitches for your ballclub and see where you’re at.”
Cashner on what wasn’t working: “Just thought I was spinning out of my delivery a little bit. Not staying on the baseball. Didn’t really execute very well with anything. A lot of bad misses and not very good breaking ball.”
Cashner on not having feel for breaking ball: “Yeah, just never really felt good with it today. Curveball, slider never really felt like I had it but I think it’s part of spinning out with my delivery and I’ve got to stay tall and drive through the baseball.”
Cashner on not getting deep into starts: “I think it’s just more being shown because of the struggles. But I still believe in myself. My track record shows. I’ve just got to make pitches.”
Valencia on whether facing reliever first is challenging: “You know, I don’t think we put too much thought into it. I think if you overthink it, you’re going to get yourself into trouble. You’re going to have one at-bat against a guy and you’re going to face another guy for three at-bats. I don’t put too much thought into it. We’ve faced guys who were starting the game later in that game. It’s the same thing. It’s baseball.”
Valencia on hoping triple would ignite offense: “Yeah, you know, you’d like to think we could have driven me in there, but Banda pitched a good game. Kept guys off balance and we came up short. We need to be better as a team. We need to be better offensively. There’s no doubt about that.”
Valencia on frustration of not getting on a roll: “We’re consistently inconsistent. That’s really what it comes down to. We’ll play a few games real solid and we’ll play a game where maybe we get away from our approaches at the dish. Tomorrow’s a new day and hopefully we win the series tomorrow.”
Valencia again on team not being able to put it all together: “This is one of the more talented teams I’ve played on and we’ve definitely underachieved to this point. There’s no doubt about it, there’s no secret to it. We’re hoping that as this season goes along, that we’re going to start turning the page. And I think to our credit, we’ve played better recently. We haven’t been going out there and getting crushed every single night and we’re in a position where we can win the series tomorrow.
“We’ve got to keep playing good baseball and hopefully it carries over into the homestand.”