O's Are Food For The Fishes

Tampa Bay's Long Ball, Baltimore's Pitching Yield Logical Result

August 19, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - - The Tampa Bay Rays entered Tuesday night having hit the third most home runs in the American League.

They were facing an Orioles pitching staff that had served up more long balls than any other AL club and second most in the majors.

The two worlds collided, and the result was a 5-4 Rays win that was paced by three Tampa Bay home runs against Orioles starter Jason Berken.

"The thing that was rough for me about this game is that it seemed like every mistake Berken made, they hit out," Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "He didn't make a whole lot of them, but the ones he did, he paid for tonight. It was really unforgiving for him."

Berken (2-11) allowed a career-worst 11 hits, but five stayed in the infield. It was the ones that left the park that hurt - four of the Rays' five runs were scored on homers.

"Pitches were up," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "They are mistakes and mistakes at this level get hit, they don't get fouled straight back. That's it."

Berken has allowed 10 homers in his past seven starts after serving up three in his first nine games. As a club, the Orioles have given up an AL-leading 154 , including 27 in 17 August games.

The loss dropped the Orioles (48-71) to a season-worst 23 games under .500 and evened their series record at 4-4 against the Rays (64-54). The Orioles have lost 14 of their past 18 overall and are 8-23 since the All-Star break.

Since the beginning of last season, the Orioles are 14-46 in road games against AL East rivals.

"We were able to come back a little bit, but we weren't able to get that big last hit there at the end," said rookie Matt Wieters, who homered in the eighth, his first since July 5, to bring the Orioles within one run but struck out with two on in the ninth.

Overall, the Orioles had 12 hits, including three by Nick Markakis, but stranded 13 runners.

"We left way too many guys on base," Trembley said. "There were more than one occasion where we had opportunities that we left too many guys on base and didn't get the big hit when needed."

The Rays jumped out to a 5-2 lead on the strength of the home runs: a two-run shot by Gabe Gross in the fourth and solo home runs by struggling Rays Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton in the sixth.

Burrell entered the night coming off a road trip in which he was 4-for-23 and missed two games with a stiff neck. Upton was in a 1-for-19 skid before getting hits in each of his first three at-bats Tuesday.

"That late in the game the ball started fading on me over the plate a little bit," Berken said. "Those balls were both thigh-high over the plate, and against quality hitters you are not going to get away with too many mistakes like that."

The Orioles stayed close thanks in part to a tremendous effort by reliever Kam Mickolio, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. He entered in the seventh with runners on second and third and no outs and picked up two strikeouts and a pop-up without yielding a run.

He struck out two more in the eighth, fanning four of the seven batters he faced.

"You won't see a better job from any pitcher, rookie or nonrookie, than what he did," Kranitz said. "That was a phenomenal job."

Tampa Bay rookie left-hander David Price (6-5) picked up the win despite laboring in every inning after a perfect first.

The Orioles had two base runners on in each of the next four innings against Price, yet he surrendered just two runs, on RBI singles by Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold in the third.

Price's most impressive inning was his fifth and final one. He allowed a leadoff double to Jones and then walked Markakis, but he got Reimold to hit a swinging bunt comebacker for the first out and then struck out Melvin Mora and Luke Scott on blazing fastballs that reached 95 and 96 mph.

The Orioles struck out 11 times on the night - but the difference ended up being the number of balls that left the yard.

"Home runs are going to happen," Wieters said. "At least we are competing and we're throwing strikes. I'd like our guys to keep their aggressiveness and keep going after guys. And if you give up a home run, you just have to shake it off and go after the next guy."

Box score

Tuesday game

PG 4

ORIOLES @RAYS

Tonight, 7:08

TV: MASN HD

Radio: 105.7 FM

INSIDE

Aubrey up from Triple-A PG 5

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