BALTIMORE — Ben Zobrist led off the game with a hard smash to third base. One out.
Desmond Jennings hit a rope toward right field. In stepped second baseman Steve Lombardozzi. Two out.
Logan Forsythe put a good swing on a pitch and hit the ball hard to the left side of the infield. Grounder to shortstop, inning over.
That is how Monday's game began for the Tampa Bay Rays — three hard-hit balls, three outs.
The offensive funk that began during the final game of the first homestand has traveled with the Rays from Kansas City to Cincinnati and now to Baltimore, where the Rays were stymied again by another left-handed starter and lost 7-1 to the Orioles.
The Rays, 3-4 on the road trip, fell to 7-7 on the season.
“We did hit some balls well. Our geometry is really bad right now. We're hitting balls at people,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We just got to start missing some folks. We're producers, not directors.”
It didn't help that Chris Archer allowed career highs in runs (seven) and hits (12). Though with the way the Rays are swinging the bats these days, Archer would have needed to pitch a shutout to keep his team in the game.
“I wasn't able to limit damage like I did last game,” Archer said. “With runners on base I was giving up singles and doubles. Last game I got out of it.”
Archer was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his first two starts. He pitched seven shutout innings against the Royals during the second game of this nine-game, three-city trip. He pitched himself out of a pair of bases-loaded jams by getting a pair of timely double-play grounders.
He wasn't as fortunate Monday.
Archer allowed five doubles — one shy of the team record for a starter. All five came during a span of 10 batters in the second and third innings that turned a 1-0 game into a rout.
Archer left some of his sliders up and more than a few fastballs over the plate. Also, he said, some of his better pitches were hit. Throw in an Orioles offense that can hit and you have the makings of a long night — or a short, five-inning outing.
“I think it was a combination of the two,” Archer said. “I felt sound with my mechanics, felt sound with my delivery. Just because you feel sound doesn't mean you're going to execute every pitch perfectly.”
Archer said he didn't feel any added pressure to produce now that Matt Moore and Alex Cobb are on the disabled list. Maddon said he didn't see Archer pressing.
“I think he's smart enough to know he doesn't have to change anything,” Maddon said.
► “They just got him on some bad pitches. They didn't miss them. He didn't get away with anything. They made us pay on every bad pitch that we made.” ◄ Maddon filled his lineup with right-handed hitters, leaving James Loney as the lone left-handed hitter to face Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen.
Ironically, Loney broke up Chen's no-hit bid with a one-out double in the fifth.
The Rays are hitting .188 this season against left-handed pitching. They're not hitting much better lately against righties.
The Rays entered the night batting .190 in their previous seven games, then were held to one run on six hits. They have scored only 14 runs in their past eight games. The four-run outburst Sunday snapped a six-game slide in which they scored three or fewer runs.
The Rays have been outscored 34-14 in their past eight games. The team ERA has jumped from 2.55 to 3.54. They lost by at least six runs in consecutive games for the first time since June 25-26, 2012.
Maddon said it is not time to panic.
“I'm pleased with the way we're going about our business,” Maddon said. “We're not hanging our heads or throwing stuff yet. I still think we're working good at-bats.”