O's offense continues to struggle in loss to Rays

Rays 5, Orioles 1

Garza holds club scoreless after yielding leadoff homer to Pie

  • Orioles center fielder Adam Jones can't make a diving catch of a fly ball hit by the Rays' Ben Zobrist in the sixth inning at Camden Yards. Zobrist wound up with a triple on the play, and Tampa Bay went on to win, 5-1.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones can't make a diving… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
April 13, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

With one big swing to lead off the bottom of the first inning Monday night, Felix Pie provided the Orioles with an early run and gave them hope that this would finally be the day when the offense awoke.

Instead, what followed Pie's homer was a whole lot more of the same for the Orioles, who continue to waste good starting pitching performances because of an inability to score runs. The only positive to their latest poor offensive effort was that barely anybody was there to watch.

Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza allowed one earned run in eight innings against the Orioles for the second time in less than a week, and Carl Crawford went 4-for-4 with a homer and a key diving catch in left field as the home team dropped its fourth straight game, a 5-1 defeat in front of an announced 9,129, the smallest crowd in Camden Yards' 19-season history.

"It's not fun," said Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .143 this season. "I think overall, our pitching is doing a great job. Our offense needs to pick it up. I know for myself in the three hole, I need to be more aggressive, get things going. We just all need to relax. It's a long season. I know it's not the way we wanted to start, but we have to keep battling. Just go out there, and things will start going our way eventually."

The previous smallest crowd at Camden Yards was 10,130 on May 26, 2009, with the Toronto Blue Jays in town. The atmosphere Monday was so dead that Olympic swimmer and local hero Michael Phelps, seated down the first base line, barely generated a golf clap when he was shown on the video screen for more than a minute.

In fairness to the crowd, the Orioles gave them very little to cheer about beyond Pie's two hits and another solid outing by Jeremy Guthrie, who despite his critical appraisal of his first two outings deserved a better fate after allowing three earned runs in seven innings.

Oriole starters have compiled a 3.98 ERA so far this season, yet only rookie Brian Matusz, who starts tonight, has a win.

"I've had two starts, and I've been out-pitched twice by Matt," said Guthrie, who has allowed a total of six earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. "He's off to a great start, and that's really what it comes down to. You got to pitch well enough to keep your team in the game, and I've done that for a few innings, but it slipped away a little bit tonight as well as it did out in Tampa. I deserve to be 0-2, and that's where I am."

Garza allowed just six hits, only two of them coming after the second inning, and he's now 8-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles and 5-0 in his career at Camden Yards.

But he is hardly the only starter to shut down the Orioles, who have scored only 20 runs through seven games, the lowest total in the American League and the second-lowest in baseball. The Orioles, whose 1-6 start matches the club's worst since 2002, have scored only three runs in three games without leadoff man and two-time All-Star Brian Roberts, who was put on the 15-day disabled list Monday and isn't expected to return until the last week in April at the earliest.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley acknowledged that he might shake up his lineup before tonight's game against the Rays.

"I probably should do something," said Trembley, who spoke briefly to his team after the game. "You lose your leadoff hitter. That just isn't the greatest news in the world, when that happens. Then you've got probably eight other guys trying to make up for his loss. Guys are human. Yeah, I may do something, maybe just to show a different look.

"We can't beat ourselves up over this. I told the team that before I came in to talk to [the media]. You've just got to keep hanging in there, do things a little better and get this thing in the win column as soon as we can."

The Orioles were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position Monday night and are now 1-for-17 in such situations over the past three games. They are also a dreadful 9-for-57 (.158) with runners in scoring position on the season.

On Monday night, their scoring chances were few and the ones they had were thwarted either by a good Rays defensive play or an Orioles base-running mistake. Both occurred in the seventh inning after Scott reached on a one-out walk after Garza had retired the previous 11 Orioles. Garrett Atkins drove a shot to left-center field that Crawford made a diving catch on.

Ty Wigginton followed with a single, putting runners on first and second with two outs and the Orioles trailing by two runs. However, pinch hitter Nolan Reimold didn't even get a chance to swing the bat. Garza threw an offspeed pitch into the dirt, and Scott and Wigginton both initially broke toward the next base.

Scott, however, retreated back to second, leaving Wigginton hung up between first and second. He was tagged out in a rundown, symbolizing another night of offensive futility.

"It certainly doesn't look too good," Trembley said of the base-running play, though his comment could have easily applied to the Orioles' latest offensive effort.

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