ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Games like the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Rays Friday night are tough ones to swallow, especially when another team beats you at your own game.
The Orioles are usually the kings of the late innings, but after Desmond Jennings’ two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, the Orioles went from six outs away from victory to having just six outs to mount a rally.
That mental momentum is one the Orioles have done to many, mounting a late-inning rally, then relying on the bullpen to slam the door.
That’s what the Rays did to them on Friday night, stealing the lead with one swing, then turning to relievers Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney in the eighth and ninth, respectively, after starter Chris Archer allowed just two runs over seven innings.
Pretty good formula at work.
The Orioles will get a chance to rebound today against Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who allowed eight runs over 7 2/3 innings – and still won – the last time he faced the Orioles on May 17 at Camden Yards.
But it’s not like Chris Archer entered Friday’s game on a roll. He had allowed five runs over four innings in his first big league start of the season a week ago.
When you’re facing the Rays, you must capitalize on their mistakes. There aren’t going to be many of them, but when they are, you’ve got to pounce.
On Friday, the Orioles scored their only run in the third, but stranded runners at first and third with two outs in the same inning. They had just one hit after that.
Sometimes one mistake is all you need. Remember last seasons, second-to-last game of the regular season here at the Trop. James Shields had one of the most dominating performances I’ve seen in a while, allowing just two hits and struck out 15, but lost 1-0 on Chris Davis’ homer to center field.
But you don’t get many of those wins. A game like that one is rare.
The Rays are a team that looks like it is starting to make a run. They’re not the same team that the Orioles took two of three from in the season-opening series here – averaging 6.7 runs per game in those games.
By the end of the day, the Orioles could find themselves in fourth place in the AL East. Now, that’s nothing to press the panic button about. The top four teams would still be separated by no more than five games by the end of the day, but it’s still noteworthy.
Speaking of noteworthy, all signs point to Pedro Strop being activated from the DL on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if Orioles manager Buck Showalter keeps putting Strop in late-inning pressure-packed situations or lets him build up his mojo before giving him some set-up duties.
We will see.
One more thought. How cool is it to be Calvert Hall catcher Alex Murphy today? A few days ago, he was tweeting about going to the Orioles game. Last Sunday, he was playing in the Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game at Camden Yards. And on Friday, he was the Orioles' sixth-round selection in the MLB Draft.
Dreams come true? I mean, the kid's Twitter background is a photo of Camden Yards.
Murphy's gotta be pinching himself this morning. Scouting reports and slot money aside, this is a cool part of the draft.