ST. PETERSBURG -- All the energy generated by the wins in Boston and New York last week, all the mojo created with the doubleheader sweep and the 14-inning victory hasn’t quite found its way to Tropicana Field.
The Baltimore Orioles arrived in town and took all three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, completing the sweep Thursday night with a 3-1 victory in front of 11,076 at Tropicana Field.
The Rays brought the trying run to the plate in all three games, so there’s that. They also left runners on base in alarming fashion.
On Thursday, the Rays were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 base runners. They stranded 28 during the three games.
“That was the part of the game we were doing better with and all of a sudden that went away,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Listen, it’s not going to get any easier. We’re facing some good pitching with Cleveland (beginning tonight). We’re going to see some pretty good guys in Seattle then off to Anaheim, so it’s up to us to do a little better job offensively.”
Evan Longoria, who drove in the Rays only run, left five runners on base. He grounded into an inning ending double play in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and struck out in the seventh with two runners on.
“Not getting it done. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “For lack of a better term, it (stinks). I definitely want to come to the plate in those situations and come through or at least have a good at-bat and put the ball in play with hard contact. I don’t know where it is, but it’s one of those stretches where things aren’t going my way I have to figure out a way to turn it around.”
The same could be said for the rest of the team.
David Price was off, allowing the Orioles three runs in five innings. He allowed five hits and all three runs with two outs.
“That’s just a good-hitting team,” Price said. “They hit mistakes. They hit good pitches. And that’s what happened.”
Price loaded the bases to start the sixth inning and gave way to Brad Boxberger, and all Boxberger did was strike out the side on nine pitches. Rafael Soriano was the only other pitcher in team history to strike out three batters on nine pitches. He did that in 2010 at Anaheim.
The Elias Sports Bureau could not find a case where a pitcher entered a game with the bases-loaded and struck out the next three batters on nine pitchers.
Boxberger’s stunning performance set the tone for the rest of the game as far as the Rays bullpen was concerned.
Joel Peralta and Juan Carlos Oviedo followed Boxberger and combined to get the final eight outs by retiring the final eight Orioles.
So, during a series where the bullpen coughed up the first two games, the bullpen on Thursday gave the Rays a chance to win.
The bats, however, did not.
“We just need to play more of a complete game on a nightly basis,” Maddon said. “It’s just not a fluid kind of a situation. We’re just unable to keep the balance necessary nightly.”
The Rays did get something going in the ninth inning when Ryan Hanigan and Ben Zobrist singled to put runners on first and second with no outs against Baltimore right-hander Darren O’Day.
But Desmond Jennings hit into a double play and Matt Joyce bounced out to first base to end the game.
“With Hanigan at second base, did not want to bunt him,” Maddon said. “There’s a good chance you get the out at third base. It’s a moot point. And the other side of it, O’Day is a fly ball pitcher and you got a fast runner (in Jennings), so everything you thought is kind of in your favor worked against you in the particular moment, conspired against us. They got us. You got to give them credit. They played with a lot of mental energy, Baltimore did, and they beat us.”