Rays fall just short despite three homers in Baltimore
Jennings, Johnson and Longoria go deep for only offense in loss
BALTIMORE -- Tampa Bay wheeled out a lineup for Tuesday night's game against Baltimore that could best be described as the antithesis of the 1927 Yankees.
However, the Rays' offense did show some life in a 5-4 loss at Camden Yards.
With the loss, the Rays moved to 4-9 on the season and their losing streak reached four games. They are 1-6 on the current road trip that will see them play the Orioles twice more before returning to St. Petersburg for a six-game homestand.
Unlike the '27 Yankees -- an offensive club with batting averages that swelled like a bullish stock market, Tuesday night's Rays' lineup included six starters with a batting average below .200, and of those six, two were batting below .100.
Statistics aside, the Rays got off to a good start when Desmond Jennings jumped on Jake Arrieta's first pitch of the evening and deposited the ball into the left-field stands for his first home run of the season.
Kelly Johnson followed with a 13-pitch at-bat, and even though he took a called third strike, the Rays looked like change might be in the air. Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria backed that thought up when they each hit the ball hard for the second and third outs in the first.
"[The first inning] was outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Desmond did his thing then Kelly, the big at-bat. Then Longo hit a ball well and so did Zobrist. Those first four at-bats of the game were really good at-bats."
Would this be the night the Rays' offense came to life?
After the first, the Rays saw six zeros posted on the scoreboard, which seemed to baffle Maddon since they chased Arrieta after five innings and 112 pitches.
"We took him to 112 pitches into the fifth," Maddon said. "Normally when you do that to a starter, you get more than one run. That's kind of difficult to do, score one run on seeing that many pitches."
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters conceded that Arrieta didn't have his best command.
"But he was still able to pound his own enough to make some pitches when he needed to," Wieters said. "We'd like to throw some more strikes and get ahead of some more hitters. Sometimes you just don't have your command that night, so you've got to go with what you've got."
The Orioles built a 5-1 lead against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez before Johnson finally put an end to the malaise with an opposite-field homer off Pedro Strop in the eighth.
"I'd seen a few pitches to that point," said Johnson, who had faced 31 pitches prior to hitting his home run. "Obviously we know that guy's got power stuff, and I got the meat of the barrel on the ball and it carried well."
Longoria added a two-run homer off Strop to cut the lead to 5-4 heading into the ninth.
But the late rally could not trump the Orioles' early work.
Manny Machado's RBI double in the first tied the game. Wieters then led off the second with his second homer of the season and Nick Markakis followed with an RBI single in the third that pushed the lead to 3-1.
Making matters worse, the Rays had a lapse in the field in the sixth. After the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs, Hernandez struck out Wieters then got J.J. Hardy to ground to third, but Longoria threw wild to the plate, allowing Markakis to score the Orioles' fourth run.
Jamey Wright took over for Hernandez to face Ryan Flaherty, who grounded out to second to drive home Adam Jones and push the Orioles' lead to 5-1.
"It was a tough play for Longo," Maddon said. "He made the right choice by going to the plate. It was off a little bit, and [they got a] chopper to the second base side and they scored another run. So to their credit, they moved the baseball in both situations."
Hernandez took the loss to move to 0-3 on the season, as his ERA swelled to 6.27.
Despite the loss, the feeling that a turnaround is near was present in the Rays' clubhouse.
"Absolutely, it's going to come," Johnson said. "It's hard to put it into perspective because it's the beginning of the year. ... You go through stretches like this all the time. I mean every team does, all the best teams. Especially offensively, you're going to see that more times than not.
"We've got good pitching and when the offense does come around, I think we're going to be in a good spot, offensively," Johnson said. "We just have to get it going. It's never too early."