BALTIMORE — It was a tough double play to turn, but the Rays have turned them before – James Loney to Yunel Escobar to the pitcher covering first base.
This one got away – way away – and so did the game.
The Rays, who twice led by two runs, lost 5-4 to the Orioles on Thursday night during the finale of the seven game road trip.
“We kind of gave that to them,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s why we’re in the situation we’re in.”
The Rays finished the road trip with three wins in seven games despite scoring first in all seven games. They lost three of the four games against the first-place Orioles.
The road trip was filled with mistakes – mental, physical, base running, fielding.
That’s not how a team climbs back into a pennant race.
“The push, the push, the push is wearing them down just a bit,” Maddon said.
Jeremy Hellickson was inconsistent. The Rays failed again to get a hit with the bases-loaded. The Orioles scored once on the front end of a double steal when Jose Molina couldn’t hold onto a high throw from Escobar.
That run tied the score at 2-2 in the first inning.
Escobar’s second throwing error of the night – he made one in the third inning that didn’t hurt – allowed the Orioles to tie the score at 4-4 in the fifth.
The Rays went ahead 4-2 in the top of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria and a doubled to the left field corner by Loney that scored Matt Joyce all the way from first base.
But the Orioles quickly loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning against Hellickson on singles by Nick Markakis and Adam Jomes with a walk to Steve Pearce in between.
Hellickson got Nelson Cruz to line out to Escobar, who was played perfectly and didn’t have to move.
Maddon called for the lefty Jeff Beliveau to face the left-handed hitting Chris Davis.
The move worked when Beliveau got Davis to hit a grounder to Loney, who turned and threw to second base to get the force out on Jones. But Escobar, who was playing to the right of second base on the shift, caught the ball and stepped on second base while moving to his right. Escobar wasn’t able to set his feet, Instead, he jumped and threw to first, but the ball sailed over the head of Beliveau, who was running to cover the base.
“That’s the idea right there,” Beliveau said, “get two outs on one pitch.”
Beliveau said he was late getting off the mound to cover first base but was still able to beat Davis to the bag.
“As I got to the bag I looked up and (the ball) was 20 feet over my head,” Beliveau said. “We got one out there. You can’t assume the double play. It would have been great to get the back end of that, and still be up two runs, but it didn’t work out.”
Markakis and Pearce scored on the play to make it a 4-4 game.
The Orioles went ahead in the seventh when J.J. Hardy muscled a single to right field that dropped in front of Kevin Kiermaier and scored Cruz with that proved to be the winning run.
“That’s why we’re in the position we’re in and they’re in the position they’re in,” Maddon said.
Not being able to hold on to the lead hurt.
Desmond Jennings ran a single to left field into a double to start the game. He scored one out later when Joyce hit a sacrifice fly to right field. Longoria followed with his 17th home run of the season to give the Rays a 2-0 lead.
The Rays could have added to the lead when they continued to put base runners on against bud Norris.
Loney singled, Wil Myers drew a walk and Escobar was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought up Molina, who swung at the first pitch and forced Escobar at second base.
Hellickson, who said he didn’t have command “of much,” allowed the Orioles back in the game in the bottom of the first.
“I got to have a shut-down inning,” Hellickson said. “I just got to be better when guys give me the lead.”