ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter can more easily accept the losing, though he’s nowhere near embracing it, if the effort is strong, the play is crisp and the ultimate goal is within sight. If it’s all for the good of the rebuild.
What transpired in the first inning tonight at Tropicana Field is unacceptable, much like the 11 walks issued by Orioles pitching in the series opener. Showalter won’t excuse it. Being in a rebuild mode isn’t an invitation to become sloppy.
The Rays scored four unearned runs off rookie David Hess in the first and stayed aggressive on the basepaths, running at every opportunity while defeating the Orioles 10-5.
The Orioles are 60 games below .500 at 41-101. They’re 17-57 on the road and 1-7 on a trip that ends Sunday.
Hess threw 30 pitches in the first inning, which began with Núñez’s throwing error on Mallex Smith’s bouncer. Smith eventually scored on a wild pitch, with Hess losing his grip on the ball and winging it toward first base.
The tone already had been set.
Tommy Pham tripled on a ball that bounced off the fencing in foul territory and rolled past Joey Rickard, and he came home on Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly.
Kevin Kiermaier, Willy Adames and Jake Bauers each singled, giving the Rays a 3-0 lead - Adames reached when Núñez backhanded the ball near the line and pulled Chris Davis off the bag - and the final run of the inning scored when Bauers retreated to first base in a rundown and was tagged out only after Adames crossed the plate.
It goes down as a caught stealing and fielder’s choice. It was another bad look for the Orioles, who didn’t execute the play properly.
Bauers was 1-for-32 and 4-for-69 before the single.
Showalter’s patience already had worn thin in the top of the first when Villar walked with two outs, moved up Trey Mancini’s single and was thrown out trying to steal third base.
Villar is 12-for-14 in stolen base attempts with the Orioles - he swiped two more tonight - and both outs have come at third base. He’s made the first and third outs there, both baseball sins.
In an attempt to atone for the mistake, Villar plated a run in the third inning with a single off reliever Ryan Yarbrough’s right shin that scored Cedric Mullins and reduced the lead to 5-1. Rickard doubled to move Mullins to third base.
Rickard reached on an infield hit in the fourth and tried to advance to second base on an errant throw, but catcher Nick Ciuffo backed up the play and nabbed him. Another aggressive act that backfired. But Rickard had three hits and a stolen base and Villar had two hits, two walks, three RBIs and two steals. More giveth than taketh away.
Hess retired 10 consecutive batters and began to control his pitch count, which reached 51 after two innings and only 71 after the fourth. He fell behind 5-0 in the second when Brandon Lowe reached on a gift double, the ball hitting the B-ring catwalk, and later scored on Joey Wendle’s bunt in front of the mound. Hess gloved the ball and scooped it late to catcher Chance Sisco.
Ciuffo was hit by a pitch during the rally and the Rays executed a double steal, but Hess began his streak by striking out the last two batters of the inning. It ended with Choi’s two-out double in the fifth.
Credit goes to Hess for preventing Showalter from going to his bullpen early, and for not walking a batter after last night’s debacle. Tanner Scott was warming in the second inning, but Hess made it through the fifth.
Scott entered the game after Adames’ leadoff double in the sixth. A sacrifice bunt and wild pitch tagged Hess with another run and gave Tampa Bay a 6-3 lead. The ball bounced in front of Sisco, deflected off his mitt and rolled away.
Hess was charged with two earned runs and six total to go with seven hits. Scott loaded the bases and allowed the Rays’ seventh run of the night on Wendle’s sacrifice fly. Paul Fry loaded the bases in the seventh inning and Matt Duffy won a 10-pitch battle with a two-run single, and Smith singled off Mike Wright Jr. for a 10-5 lead.
The Orioles have been outscored 24-7 in the first two games of the series and they’ve struck out 25 times. They’ve been outscored 110-61 in the first inning this season.
Showalter on Hess and early sloppy play: “I did want to get him up one more time in the sixth, but we didn’t help him in the first inning, either. We made four or five errors that won’t show up in the error column. Not just defensive stuff. But David, I like the way he rebounded and found his step, but at this level it’s tough to feel your way around the first inning.
“His command came back a little bit, but he’s still having some trouble commanding the strike zone. Just because you’re throwing a strike doesn’t mean it’s good command.”
Showalter on first inning hurting tempo of game: “We had the go-ahead run at the plate, too, so our guys grinded back through it, but it’s certainly in the situation we’re in, it casts a negative feel to it early. But it’s not all David’s fault.”
Hess on first inning: “I went back and watched the video. More than anything I got to make better pitches. When that first guy gets on, it’s one of those things you have to put behind you and make pitches and find a way to get back on track and make outs.”
Hess on how to overcome first inning: “I think more than anything, you want to try and keep in mind these guys are growing and learning just as much as I am, so when they’re out, kind of going through the growing pains as well, keeping that in mind and understanding that this is going to pay off in time to come.
“So, right now, going through it and just being supportive, being the best teammate I possibly can to those guys because I know that’s exactly what they do for me. Just trying to lift them up and pick them up where I can and, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that as well today as I needed to.”
Hess on goals for last 20 games: “I can tell you right now, every guy in that clubhouse wants to win. You ask them what our thought is going forward, we want to go 20-0. Obviously, there’s some factors that go into everything. We’re trying to get better as a team, but at the end of the day we all want to win. That’s what we’re working towards as a whole, and individually, as well. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Villar on two-run single and baserunning mistake: “I feel good about the situation because I was able to help the team. But the situation feels a little bit bad because in the first inning I ran to third base. Two outs, Davis hitting, a power hitter. In that situation, I feel a little bit bad because it was an error mentally. In the second one, I felt good because I hit an RBI for the team, so that helped.”
Villar on clubhouse mood: “Right now, we’ve got preparation for next year. That’s the game right now. ... We’re losing, but I feel happy because the team never got face down. So, for that we are happy.”