BALTIMORE — The Tampa Bay Rays rolled into Camden Yards on Monday to face a Baltimore team reeling after been swept over the weekend by the Chicago Cubs, knowing they could make up significant ground in the American League East with a good series against the first-place Orioles.
And Joe Maddon rolled out what he called his “Sunday lineup” that had Ben Zobrist in center field for the first time since late in the 2010 season, Wil Myers in right field for the first time since returning from his injury, and Evan Longoria serving as the designated hitter. Desmond Jennings had the night off, and Kevin Kiermaier was on the bench nursing a sore neck.
“Sometimes you throw the little Sunday lineup out on a Monday night, see how it plays,” Maddon said before the game.
It did not play well, though that had more to do with Jake Odorizzi’s worst start of his career than anything the defense failed to do, especially when five of the Orioles’ hits were caught by fans.
The O’s pounded the Rays, 9-1, slugging five home runs, including a pair of back-to-back blasts against Odorizzi.
“Overall a frustrating night, not just for me, but frustrating that I let the guys down,” Odorizzi said. “We need all these games right now. Letting them down is the biggest disappointment for my night.
“I don’t care about myself giving up eight (runs), it’s just that I didn’t give us a good chance to win, and we need that right now.”
Odorizzi allowed career-highs in runs (eight) and hits (11). He became the first Rays pitcher to allow back-to-back home runs twice in the same game.
“They beat us up,” Maddon said. “Give them credit.”
The Orioles returned home after scoring just four runs on 13 hits during their three losses at Wrigley Field. But they got well in a hurry against Odorizzi, who said his fastball was running back over the plate.
It was a problem Alex Cobb noticed from watching video of the Orioles’ three-run third inning, which featured a two-run homer by Nick Markakis and a solo shot by the next batter, Steve Pearce.
Odorizzi said he corrected the problem in the fourth inning, but it returned in the fifth when the Orioles scored six runs — the first five off of Odorizzi.
The Orioles opened the inning with three straight singles that produced a run on an error by Matt Joyce in left field.
Former Ray Delmon Young drove a three-run homer to left field to put the Orioles up 7-1. J.J. Hardy followed with a home run to chase Odorizzi.
“He didn’t have his swing-and-miss stuff, that’s the best way to describe it,” Maddon said.
Chris Davis greeted Kirby Yates with a home run as the Orioles went back-to-back-to-back. The last time that happened to the Rays was July 20, 2010, when Matt Garza allowed three consecutive home runs to the Orioles.
The last team to hit five home runs in a game off the Rays was the Indians, who did it on April 7, 2013.
“They were big fly balls,” Maddon said.
It was the first time the Rays allowed nine runs in a game since June 5 when the Marlins scored 11.
The loss dropped the Rays to 11 games behind the Orioles in the AL East. They began play Monday 7˝ games behind the Mariners, who hold the second of the two AL wild-card spots.
Maddon said before the game the goal was to catch the Orioles, which is why this four-game series is so vital.
“You always aim high, so our aim is going to be the division,” Maddon said.
But only 31 games remain in the season, meaning the math is getting harder.
“Until the math tells me to give up, I’m not going to,” Maddon said. “We just came off a really hard-fought series in Toronto where we didn’t lose a game (the Rays are protesting Saturday’s loss), and you come in here and you get blown up one night, you just throw it in the trash can and move on. We still have a chance to win the series. That was the goal coming in. That’s still within our reach.”