The Orioles started Wednesday night's game with only a two-man bench, but with the way center fielder Adam Jones has been swinging the bat, that appeared to be only a minor inconvenience.
However, Jones, one player the Orioles simply can't afford to lose, joined the sick and the wounded when a mild right hamstring strain forced him out of the lineup in the fourth inning, and prompted the club to call up top outfield prospect Nolan Reimold for Thursday night's game.
Without Jones, the Orioles' offense accomplished very little until a ninth-inning rally came up two runs short. The Tampa Bay Rays broke a tie with two runs in the sixth inning off Brad Bergesen and then held on for an 8-6 victory before an announced 13,237 at Camden Yards.
"We came up a couple of hits [short] from turning around a real tough top of the ninth [into] a tremendous come-from-behind win, and it didn't happen," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
The Orioles (14-20) scored four times in the bottom of the ninth on a two-run homer from Brian Roberts, a solo shot from Felix Pie and an RBI single from Melvin Mora. However, a six-run deficit, created when the Rays scored four times in the top of the inning off control-challenged Bob McCrory, proved too big of a hole.
Rays manager Joe Maddon yanked closer Troy Percival and inserted J.P. Howell to get the final two outs after Percival surrendered hits to four of the five Orioles he faced. Howell allowed the RBI hit to Mora but got Lou Montanez and Ty Wigginton to hit into fielder's choices to end the game.
The Orioles finished the homestand with a 4-3 record and will start a nine-game road trip Thursday at Kansas City. Who Trembley has available for that game and the series remains to be seen.
Jones' right hamstring tightened while he beat out an infield single in the second inning. His status is considered day-to-day as he has what the club described as a mild hamstring strain, but the Orioles figure to be cautious with one of their best players.
"To me, it felt more like a cramp," said Jones, who has already missed two games this year with a right hamstring strain. "I'll be back [Thursday] if I have my way, but hopefully it will only be a couple of days."
Pie, hospitalized Tuesday night with stomach discomfort that was later diagnosed as food poisoning, didn't get medical clearance to play until about an hour before the first pitch. He went 2-for-2 with his second home run after replacing Jones.
However, the status of Jones and Luke Scott, who missed his second straight game with a left shoulder strain, is uncertain, creating the need to call up Reimold and option McCrory, who allowed four earned runs in 1 2/3 innings Wednesday, back to Triple-A Norfolk. Yet to make his major league debut, Reimold is batting .394 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs for Norfolk.
"Obviously if [Jones and Scott] can't play, he's going to be in the lineup," Trembley said. "I'll know more where those guys are at [Thursday]."
Bergesen (1-1) didn't pitch poorly on Wednesday, but he eventually paid for allowing too many base runners. The Rays connected for nine hits in 5 2/3 innings against him, including four in a two-run sixth inning that included Willy Aybar's go-ahead RBI single and Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly.
"It's such a funny game," Bergesen said. "I thought I had the best stuff I've had all year. Then in the [sixth] inning, I left a couple of balls up and they took advantage of them."