ST. PETERSBURG -- J.J. Hardy, the two-time Gold Glove shortstop for the Orioles, booted a ground ball in the first inning that allowed the Rays to load the bases with no outs, and the Rays, presented with an early chance to blow the game open, stranded all three runners.
Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, a two-time All-Star, booted a grounder with two out in the fifth inning and it led to the only run the Orioles needed for the victory.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the Readers Digest condensed version of the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays season.
Throw in a base-running blunder by Evan Longoria and another hitless game with runners in scoring position and you have all the talking points in the Orioles 2-0 win in front of 12,448 at Tropicana Field.
“Sometimes you make an error and you get the next guy out and nobody says anything about it, and sometimes it costs you, and this year it seems like it’s been costing us a little bit more when we make ’em,” Zobrist said.
Alex Cobb took a loss he didn’t deserve after allowing just the unearned run in seven innings.
“We didn’t deserve to win. The only guy really that deserved to win was Cobb,” Longoria said. “He threw the ball well and gave us a chance, and we didn’t reward him by doing very routine things the right way. We’ve got to do those things or we’re not going to win. Simple as that.”
Afterwards, Cobb talked about how pride still matters in the Rays clubhouse now that the lofty preseason goals have faded with a major league-high 45 losses and an AL-high 11 shutouts.
To prove his point, Cobb absolved Zobrist of any wrong doing, since Nick Markakis, who reached on the error when Zobrist let the ball roll out of his glove, scored on a double down the right field line by Steve Pearce.
“I had a guy 0-2 and I wasn’t able to get the job done,” Cobb said. “That’s what I was so frustrated about. When guys have your back all day you really try to do your part and really pick a guy up. What’s going on now, you don’t want the attention to be dwelled on that particular play, and I had all the opportunity in the world to make that a non-issue at the end of the game.”
The Rays had a chance to get something going in the sixth inning when Longoria led off with a double. But Longoria said he lost track of the outs and took off for third base when Zobrist sent a line drive to left field with one out. Longoria was easily doubled off second base.
“Just a mental mistake. It’s something that can’t happen,” Longoria said. “I told him it looks great if it bloops in accidentally and we end up scoring a run there, but it looks terrible when you run into the third out, you get doubled up with another guy potentially able to drive you in there with two outs. Those are the things that we’ve been trying to preach around here to not let happen. I’m disappointed in myself that it did. It just can’t happen. That’s all.”
The Rays were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, including 0-for-3 in the first inning against Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. But James Loney and Zobrist struck out swinging and David DeJesus flew out to left field.
“That game could’ve been ours very early if we just do a couple things right,” Longoria said. “And then later in the game, we don’t do a couple things right and it cost us the game.”