Baseball / Sports

Orioles struggle offensively in 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night

BALTIMORE -- Just about every time the Tampa Bay Rays have been mentioned to Buck Showalter in the past month, he can't help but talk about Drew Smyly, the left-handed starter the Rays received in last month's deal with the Detroit Tigers for All-Star left-hander David Price.

Showalter has gushed about Smyly for parts of three seasons. The Orioles had inquired about his availability periodically during that span, but they never could acquire him. Based on his performance in the Rays' 3-1 victory Wednesday at Camden Yards, the Orioles can't be happy about facing Smyly a lot over the next four-plus seasons.

Pitching before an announced 20,762, Tampa Bay's 25-year-old left-hander was superb. He issued a walk to Steve Pearce in the first inning, a solo homer to Chris Davis in the second and a single to Pearce in the sixth. That would be all the offense Smyly (9-10, 3-1 with the Rays) would surrender through seven innings while striking out six batters. He has pitched consecutive two-hitters; his last a shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

Despite the loss, the American League East-leading Orioles (75-56) have won two of three this week against the Rays (65-68) and will go for the series victory Thursday. It was the Orioles' fourth defeat in their last six games, and they have scored just five runs in those losses while totaling 13 runs in their two victories.

Smyly was a significant reason for the Orioles' cold bats Wednesday. As Showalter likes to say about hot pitchers, he hasn't been picking solely on the Orioles.

In five starts with the Rays since his July 31 trade, Smyly has posted a 1.50 ERA, allowing 18 hits, seven walks and 29 strikeouts in 36 innings.

Against the AL East in his career, he is 6-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 18 appearances (seven starts), and versus the Orioles he is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings. He has allowed just two runs in those five games: a solo homer to Adam Jones on May 13 and Davis' blast in the second.

That homer snapped Smyly's 16-inning scoreless streak that began Aug. 16.

How much did he flummox the Orioles on Wednesday?

They had one pitch all night with a runner in scoring position, and Jones swung through it for an inning-ending strikeout in the sixth. After Davis' homer, his 23rd of the season, Smyly retired 12 straight batters before Pearce's single.

He threw 87 pitches in seven innings; Orioles starter Kevin Gausman threw 80 in four innings. And that was the real difference Wednesday.

The Rays scored three batters into the game against Gausman (7-6). After the rookie struck out Rays leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings on three pitches, Ben Zobrist doubled to right field and then moved to third on a wild pitch.

Matt Joyce followed with a sharp grounder to second that should have been an easy second out. But rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop tried to go home to get Zobrist and was late on the throw. Zobrist scored and Joyce was safe at first.

Evan Longoria and James Loney followed with consecutive singles against Gausman, which should have created a mess. But the Orioles caught a break when the usually fundamentally sound Longoria failed to see that Joyce had been held up on Loney's hit.

Longoria raced to third, saw Joyce standing there and then was tagged out by Davis. Joyce scored the Rays' second run on a bloop single by Wil Myers. They added a third run on a sacrifice fly in the second by Zobrist, a run that was set up by shortstop J.J. Hardy's throwing error.

Gausman had to throw 57 pitches to get his first six outs, and he paid a price for that inefficiency. He faced the minimum six batters through the next two innings, but was taken out after completing four innings, tying his career-low for innings pitched. It was the third time this season, including his first start against the Detroit Tigers on May 14, that Gausman lasted just four innings.

Orioles relievers T.J. McFarland, Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day -- on his T-shirt night -- combined for five scoreless innings. But Tampa Bay relievers Brad Boxberger and closer Jake McGee also didn't allow a run in two perfect innings. McGee picked up his 15th save with a scoreless ninth.

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