ST. PETERSBURG — For a few innings, it looked as if the ol’ Tampa Bay Rays mojo returned to Tropicana Field. The early five-run deficit was down to one, the Rays pitching settled down. Heck, even the two pigeons that have been flying around the Trop since the last homestand appeared to have found a perch to watch what was shaping up to be a rare comeback this season.
Then Baltimore’s Steve Pearce launched a two-run homer into the left-field seats in the seventh inning and, well, that was basically that.
The Rays scored a run in the eighth inning but the damage was done and the Baltimore Orioles stopped the Rays modest winning streak at two with a 7-5 victory in front of 10,803 fans.
“It’s 5-4 right there and they hit the homer to make it seven points, that was the one that made it kind of difficult to come back from,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We already came back from five points and we were there, right at the doorstep, and now it becomes seven. That’s what made it difficult.”
Erik Bedard had one bad inning, and Brad Boxberger made one bad pitch. The Orioles took advantage of both and won for the sixth time in seven meetings this season with the Rays.
The Orioles scored five times in the third inning, with the big hit being a grand slam by Chris Davis that was originally ruled a double but changed to a home run after an umpire review.
With his team up 1-0, Davis drove an opposite-field line drive toward the low wall in left field. David DeJesus, making a rare start in left, collided with the wall as the ball struck the foul pole.
“It’s not an easy play for anybody,” Maddon said.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter quickly left the dugout to see if the umpires wanted to take another look at the play. They did. Replays showed the ball struck the foul pole for a grand slam.
Bedard was ahead 0-2 in the count and said he tried to get Davis to chase a pitch out of the strike zone.
“I tried to get him to chase and it hit the foul pole,” Bedard said.
The Rays got two runs back in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back home runs by Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings.
Rodriguez’s homer, his seventh of the season, was a rocket that struck the C-ring catwalk in left field. Jennings followed with a shot into the left-field seats for his sixth homer of the season.
Meanwhile, Bedard rebounded with a perfect fourth inning. He allowed a leadoff double to Nick Markakis in the fifth and gave way to Kirby Yates.
Yates, pitching in his fourth big-league game, retired the first two batters he faced, issued an intentional walk to Davis then got a forceout to end the threat.
The Rays responded in the bottom of the inning when Matt Joyce doubled with one out and Evan Longoria reached on a chop single to third base. The Rays have been victimized by such hits this season at home. This time, the chop worked in their favor.
James Loney drove them both home with a double to left field to make it a one-run game.
Boxberger replaced Yates to start the seventh inning and got No. 9 hitter Caleb Joseph to hit a fly ball to right field that Joyce misplayed into a double. Ironically, the Rays worked on their outfield defense prior to the game “That gave them a little bit of a different vibe,” Maddon said.
Boxberger was pitching with a runner on second instead of one out and no one on base. He got Markakis to pop up to shortstop for the first out. But Pearce took him deep to put the game out of reach.
“We were in that game the whole time,” Maddon said. “It’s very simple. The starting pitcher had a tough night. That’s it.”