Game 144: James Loney’s 4 Hits Not Enough As Rays Fall

By Fletcher Keel

The Tampa Bay Rays dropped the series finale against the division-leading Baltimore Orioles by a score of 7-5 in extra innings Sunday after an MLB-leading 39th home run from Nelson Cruz in the top of the 11th gave Baltimore the 7-5 victory.

The loss spoils a solid start from Jeremy Hellickson, who pitched 5.1 innings of four hit, two run ball and struck out six on the day. He out-dueled Oriole starter Bud Norris (even though Norris went further into his game), who allowed four runs on eight hits over six innings. Even though Hellickson was pitching well, Joe Maddon opted to bring in reliever Steve Geltz with one out in the 5th after Hellickson had thrown just 90 pitches. That could be the Rays being cautions about Hellickson’s workload after he missed time with an elbow injury earlier this season. It could also be due to a lack of trust in Hellickson on Maddon’s part, which is certainly something we have seen in the past.

The Rays offense scored three runs after four innings, but in the bottom of the sixth, Cruz hit his first home run of the day to put Baltimore on the board. Kevin Kiermaier responded in the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run, his 10th of the year, to make it a 4-2 game. Kiermaier had himself a nice day aside from the home run as well, going 3-for-4 with a double. After hitting just .184 since August 1st, lets hope that this is the day that gets Kiermaier’s bat going once again.

Joel Peralta was trusted to pitch a shut-down ninth inning, but a Cruz triple plated three runs and gave the Orioles a lead. The Rays didn’t go down easy though, as Sean Rodriguez helped manufacture the game-tying run, bringing home Evan Longoria on an RBI groundout. No one scored in the 10th, and with one out, Cesar Ramos allowed the game winning hit to Cruz in the 11th.

The Rays had their share of opportunities to either put the game out of reach for good or win late, but left 14 men on base. It wasn’t really the offense’s fault though with the pitching staff allowing 7 runs. The team as a whole smacked four home runs, one each by Kiermaier, Longoria, James Loney, and David DeJesus. Loney had a solid day, going 4-for-6 with a run scored and an RBI. It was nice to see him with some power, as his .368 slugging percentage this season following a .430 mark in 2013 is fairly disappointing.

It’ll be back to playing a division opponent after an off-day Monday, as the Rays will head up north and take on the New York Yankees. The first game of the series will feature Chris Archer taking the bump against Hiroki Kuroda.