O's can't solve Moore to back Tillman's quality start
Birds drop fifth contest in a row, endure second straight sweep
BALTIMORE -- Orioles Magic? Not exactly. At least, not lately.
A Baltimore club unable to fire on all cylinders finally got a quality start Sunday afternoon -- its second in nine games -- at the same time the team's surging offense went cold against Rays lefty Matt Moore. A night removed from watching All-Star closer Jim Johnson suffer his second consecutive blown save, the Orioles seemed almost snake-bitten, as they watched a home-run call go against them and several balls fall at the warning track.
The end result was a 3-1 loss to cap a series sweep at the hands of Tampa Bay, running the O's season-high losing streak to five games as they get set to square off against the first-place New York Yankees' ace CC Sabathia on Monday.
"That's a little bit 'woe is me' and 'the world's against me' thing, [but] that's not the case [with us]," manager Buck Showalter said. "We don't think that way. We've had some good things ... happen to us at times. That's part of playing a sport. There's some unique dips and turns to every season. It's frustrating for us, but you don't dwell on it."
Baltimore has suffered back-to-back series sweeps after going the first 12 series of the year without a sweep, and so far are winless on an eight-game homestand.
"Every team is going to go through their losses, whether it's five in a row, six, seven, it doesn't make a difference," right fielder Nick Markakis said. "We know that we're in a tough stretch right now. We've got to put it past us. Every team has gone through their troubles, and we're in ours right now, and we've got to fight through it and move on. We've got a lot of baseball left."
Moore, the Rays most efficient starter this season, especially after ace David Price's injury, went seven innings and held an Orioles offense that banged out 22 runs and 42 hits over the previous four games to just one run.
That run came courtesy of Adam Jones' third-inning single, which scored Manny Machado after his leadoff triple. Machado's ball, hit to deep right-center field, rolled to the wall after Rays outfielders Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce converged. Jones, who stole second and third base on consecutive pitches, was stranded at third as Moore retired the next three batters on a strikeout and a pair of groundouts, marking the second consecutive inning the O's left a runner 90 feet from home plate.
"He's dealing right now," Jones said of Moore, who improved to 8-0 on the season. "He kept us off balance. We had a few opportunities to get runs. Nobody had a lot of opportunities today.
"You've got to maximize your opportunities. We capitalized on one, there were a couple others, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the man. He pitched his game."
So did Orioles starter Chris Tillman, with the exception of a few pitches that ended up being the difference in the game. Tillman, who was the last starter to give the team an outing of longer than five innings, did it again with a solid six-inning start that marked his sixth consecutive quality start.
"Pitching wasn't the issue today," Showalter said of his club, which also got 2 1/3 scoreless innings from T.J. McFarland. "It was trying to solve Moore. And their bullpen's been pretty tough. Moore was the difference-maker today."
The 25-year-old Tillman allowed three runs, including a pair of homers, one of which was a controversial solo shot from Joyce in the sixth inning.
Play was stopped after Joyce sent Tillman's fastball down the right-field line for what originally went down as a one-out double. Showalter came out to argue the call, with Nick Markakis indicating he thought the ball was foul. Rays manager Joe Maddon came out to counter that Joyce's ball hit the foul pole instead.
After a prolonged on-field deliberation between the umpiring crew, Joyce's hit was put under official review and correctly ruled a homer, pushing the Rays lead to two.
"The only thing I wanted to make sure of, if the play's being called a double on the field by reviewing it, it can just be a double or a home run. It cannot be a foul ball," Maddon said of the delay. "I was being told it could be ruled a foul ball and that's why I had to stick around a while longer."
"They got it right, so it certainly didn't affect the way the game ended up," Showalter said. "Joe was just kind of waiting to get the right call out of the dugout, because you can only get them to review it if you think it was a home run [not for fair or foul clarifications]."
Tillman got out of the inning without any further damage and struck out four total, helping stabilize an inconsistent Orioles rotation and giving his team a chance to win.
But the offense couldn't deliver off Moore, as the O's went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position over his 106-pitch outing. Markakis opened the bottom of the sixth with a single, but he was forced out on Machado's fielder's choice as the O's wasted a pair of hits -- the other from Jones -- to mark their lowest offensive output since May 3. It was just the second time in eight games they've scored fewer than four runs.
"There were a few games there we could have turned it around and won, but that's neither here nor there," Jones said. "It's baseball. Come out tomorrow ready to go. The Yankees are going to be ready; they had a day off with the rainout. They're going to be rested and ready to attack us, so we're going to have to do the same thing."