ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles come off their 11-game road trip with more bumps and bruises as they reach the Memorial Day marker.
The seventh loss was especially painful today with an early three-run lead and Kevin Gausman on the mound against a team that gives the impression of having more interest in cutting costs than deficits.
The Rays sent 12 batters to the plate in the third inning and scored six runs, and the Orioles lost 8-3 at Tropicana Field to remain stuck on one road series win. They took three of four from the Yankees on April 5-8.
The Orioles are 17-36 overall and 7-23 on the road. They went 4-7 on their trip through Boston, Chicago and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Former Orioles left-hander Vidal Nuño replaced starter Sergio Romo with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning and let all three inherited runners score. But he departed in the fourth with a 7-3 lead and earned his first major league win since July 20, 2016 with the Mariners.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette targeted Memorial Day as the point in the season where it’s appropriate to re-evaluate the team’s standing and whether more drastic changes to the roster are in order. Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are pending free agents. The Orioles began the day tied for the worst record in the majors.
Any semblance of momentum turns to dust. Win the last game of the White Sox series and the first game against the Rays and drop the next two. And it starts again with the starting pitching.
Gausman lasted only 2 2/3 innings in his shortest non-ejection outing since April 18, 2017 in Cincinnati. He was tossed after one inning on May 3, 2017 in Boston. He couldn’t protect the 3-0 lead this afternoon, serving up Brad Miller’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the first and surrendering six runs in the third.
Gausman was charged with seven runs and six hits to raise his ERA from 3.48 to 4.31. He walked two batters and hit two.
Miller delivered a two-run double in the third - left fielder Trey Mancini had trouble tracking the ball - and Oriole killer Joey Wendle poked a run-scoring single to left. A single and walk loaded the bases and Mallex Smith drove in a run with a bouncer to the right side.
Gausman hit Carlos Gomez, Christian Arroyo singled to bring home two more runs and manager Buck Showalter went to his bullpen.
Wendle’s single made him 14-for-34 (.412) with six RBIs in nine games against the Orioles.
In his previous start, Gausman shut out the White Sox on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings and tied his career high with 10 strikeouts. But 10 of 17 batters reached against him today.
A chess match started in the first inning.
The Orioles might have felt rooked with the insertion of Nuño into the game, though Showalter warned that the Rays could go in any direction while backing up Romo. They were playing the matchups and the Orioles went along with it. And made the most of it.
The Rays pulled Romo in the first inning for the second time in three days. He retired Mancini on a ground ball and the next three batters reached on a walk and two singles. Chris Davis took a few steps toward the plate and looked into the Rays dugout, knowing that manager Kevin Cash would bring in Nuño.
Davis was 7-for-46 (.152) against lefties this season with one double and three home runs. He flied to center field to score Pedro Álvarez, who drew his 16th walk of the season.
All three runs were charged to Romo, who was done after 15 pitches and poised to lose for the second time in the series. The three runs matched the Orioles’ total in the first two games.
Miller homered while leading off the bottom of the first inning, driving a fastball clocked at 94.4 mph an estimated 436 feet off the D-ring catwalk near the right field scoreboard. Gausman has allowed nine runs in the first inning this season. The Orioles have been outscored 63-27.
C.J. Cron was hit by a pitch, but Wendle bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. Gausman threw 17 pitches in the inning. He still held a two-run lead and the Orioles seemed like they had more offense in them. But it was an illusion.
They didn’t score after the first. Mike Wright Jr. gave them 2 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts, but Gomez admired his leadoff home run off Pedro Araujo in the seventh, walking up the line before breaking into a trot and yelling toward the Rays dugout, after celebrating a diving catch to end the sixth by jumping to his feet and slamming both hands against his thighs.
At least someone was having fun.
The Orioles won’t let the good times roll.
Davis on frustration: “Yeah, it’s really frustrating. Anytime we score runs early in the game, we expect to win. Although we weren’t able to do that, I was proud of the way Kevin was able to hang in there only giving up one (in the first). I think so many times we’ve gone out there and us put up a three or a four and we go back out and give up a four or a five, and as an offense it’s just demoralizing to do that. But I thought he did a good job of settling in.
“They got some really big hits when they needed to. I think Brad was really the man of the day over there and pretty much anything he barreled resulted in a lot of runs. We know we have a lot to work on. Finally we get a chance to go back home and play in front of our own fans and try to get a win tomorrow.”
Davis on two losses after Friday win: “I think the biggest thing for us is to kind of look at the road trip and try to take the positive away. We had a great offensive game in Chicago, a day when (Dylan Bundy) pitched outstanding and it was really one of the days that we really put is all together and showed how ... capable we are of being good. But I think just the losses late in the game, having to bring guys in who haven’t thrown in several days, they’re tough. And they take a toll on a team, not only physically but mentally. So we need to go back over the positives and keep the focus on that.”
Davis on whether players wonder if changes are coming: “I hope not. I hope guys aren’t worrying about that. It’s hard enough as it is to go about your business every day and try to get a win at the big league level. I hope guys aren’t worried about the future. I want them focused on this club, the things we’re doing well, not the things that we’re doing wrong, and trying to go out there and get a win.
“This game is hard, whether you’re a 10-year vet or you’ve been in the big leagues 10 days. You’re constantly making adjustments. That’s what it’s about. And for us as a team we have to stick together. We have to stay close and continue to pick each other up.”
Showalter on Gausman: “Command was a challenge from the get-go. He wasn’t the only one. Everybody had trouble with it today. What did we have, like, six walks? Three hit by pitch? And the hit by pitches, some were in counts where you can put them away. Kevin just wasn’t able to, when he did get ahead, to put people away like he’s been doing. It’s one of the most challenging things in sports is stay together mechanically over long periods of time. Not only in an outing, but in outing to outing. Kevin’s been so good, that one kind of catches you by surprise because he’s been pitching so well.”
Showalter on how surprising it was to see Gausman struggle: “Yeah, and I know he’s frustrated with it. Like we do and he does, we’ll go back to the drawing board and bullpen and see if we can find out potentially why. You give the other team some credit, but we gave a lot of 90 feet increments today that they didn’t - they earned it with walks - but we helped them with the lack of command. He wasn’t the only one. All of our guys had trouble with command for the most part today.”
Showalter on offense fizzling: “We had a chance to open it up again. It’s been a challenge for us to sustain some innings. We had a chance to add on there, I think it was the next inning, and we just couldn’t get that one hit to get over the hump.”
Showalter on manufacturing runs in the first: “It was there and Craig’s a good bunter and he took advantage of it. That’s one of the things you deal with when they start somebody like Romo because they can bring in anybody. They may say (Austin) Pruitt, but they can dictate the matchup. But it also happens when you’ve got nine guys in the bullpen. You can do those things.”
Gausman on command: “I just got into a lot of situations where I had the advantage and kind of had the hitter right where I needed to and just needed to execute the pitch and I just wasn’t able to on a lot of guys. Obviously, 51 pitches in one inning is not going to allow you to go deep into a game.”
Gausman on whether it was surprising: “Absolutely. It’s frustrating, but back to the drawing board. I’ve got another one in a couple days. There were a lot of things that were good in my last couple starts and I feel like I’m in the right direction, but today just wasn’t one of those days. Really from the get-go, I was having a hard time commanding my fastball and being able to throw it up in the zone, which is big for me.”
Gausman on team needing consistent starting: “Yeah, absolutely. We’re only going to go as far as our pitching can take us. I feel like we’ve pitched well this year and on the other side not really done much. And also had the other side of it, too. It’s frustrating, but you always want to kind of one-up the next guy and I thought we did a pretty good job in Chicago of doing that. Obviously here, me and (Andrew) Cashner kind of let two games get away from us.”
Gausman on feeling good after three-run top of the first: “With it being the rubber match, we put up a three-spot in the first inning, I feel pretty good about our chances. I’ve got to do a better job of going out there and shutting the door from the get-go. I give up a leadoff homer and really from then on I was kind of battling myself the whole game. Had a quick second, but got away with a couple pitches. It’s frustrating, but we’ve just got to find that consistency.”