The Tampa Bay Rays entered Birdland at Camden Yards on Monday night in a position of 10 games back in the AL East and 7.5 games back in the AL Wild Card to begin a four game series with the Orioles. The need of a sweep or at least three out of four to gain ground on Baltimore presented odds against on the level of the Titanic being able to dodge the iceberg, but perhaps “Maddon the Magician” would pull a new trick out of his bag AS Jake Odorizzi (9-10, 3.83 ERA) faced Chris Tillman (10-5, 3.55 ERA) to begin the meeting. “Odo” possessed no magic of his own and the balance of the team was flat in an Orioles 9-1 victory in 2 hours, 56 minutes that seemed much longer to Rays fans.
The pitching positives for Jake Odorizzi in this game are few. He was very effective in the first two innings when throwing his standard 83-84 mph changeup accompanied by his 89-91 mph fastball while landing six first-pitch strikes facing the first eight Orioles batters. In the third inning, however, everything went south. After giving up a lead-off single to Jonathan Schoop, Odorizzi then gave up two fastball back to back home runs to Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce, making the score 3-1 Baltimore. Showing extreme frustration on the mound, his command then resembled a buckshot pattern although he was finally able to exit the inning at 65 pitches without giving up any more runs. The fourth inning seemed a little better when Odorizzi faced only four hitters on 10 pitches and hope prevailed that maybe the third inning was just a fluke. Not so.
To attempt to describe Rays pitching in the fifth inning is basically an Orioles highlight reel, possibly resembling a pre-Halloween voodoo-inspired Birdland batting practice session. Leadoff hitter Steve Pearce hit a sharp single off the glove of third baseman Sean Rodriguez with Adam Jones then moving Pearce to second base on a single up the middle. Nelson Cruz then singled to left field to drive in Pearce to score. Then former Ray Delmon Young smashed another Odorizzi fastball, his 91st pitch of the game, into the left field stands to score another three runs. To make the inning worse, next batter J.J. Hardy then sent another fastball to downtown centerfield to mark the second back-to-back home run performance by the Orioles in the game. Joe Maddon then pulled Jake Odorozzi from the game at 96 pitches in four innings and with no outs in the fifth. Next, new reliever Kirby Yates faced Chris Davis and gave up another home run, making the score 9-1 Baltimore. Although Yates was then able to get out of the inning, the damage done was clearly enormous. At that point, every Orioles starter had at least one hit in the game and the surrendering of six runs in a single inning was a season-record for the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays. Jeff Beliveau pitched a scoreless sixth with Cesar Ramos following with scoreless seventh and eighth innings. Orioles closer Zach Britton then shut down the three Rays hitters in the top of the ninth in what was exceedingly far from a save situation.
Jake Odorizzi finished the game with a scary line: 4.0 innings pitched, 11 hits, 8 ERs, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts on 96 pitches, 63 for strikes. Amid a great season, especially since May, he simply tossed up a clunker. Hopefully it is a long time before we see another outing like this and he gets right back into a rhythm.
The Rays total offense consisted of a leadoff Yunel Escobar single in the third inning who was then moved to third base on a combination Jose Molina single and Baltimore throwing error while attempting a double play. Although Sean Rodriguez then grounded out into a double play, Escobar did make it home to score the Rays only run. The Rays combined for four hits and left three men on base in scoring position. A possible questionable move by Joe Maddon was to assign Evan Longoria to DH and S-Rod to play third base. Rodriguez just wasn’t as quick and smooth on hits down the third base line and it cost the Rays a couple outs at first base. Although Longoria was expected to be successful against Orioles starter Chris Tillman and he did connect with a deep drive to center field in the sixth inning, the possible home run was snared by Adam Jones and turned into a double play.
Although a win was needed in this game, all is not lost. At this point, to inject something positive, Rays fans should note that the only team to win a home series at Camden Yards this season was Tampa Bay when they took three of four in a weekend series July 27-29, 2014 which included a doubleheader. On Tuesday night, Rays ace Alex Cobb will face Wei-Yen Chen with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 EST at Camden Yards.