Orioles fall behind early, move closer to club record for losses by dropping 10-5 decision to Rays

Fielding a starting lineup more suitable for a Grapefruit League trip than a late-season major league game at Tropicana Field, the Orioles’ meeting with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night was also more reminiscent of early March than the second week of September.

One day after reaching the 100-loss mark, the Orioles dropped a 10-5 decision that ensured they will lose all three series on their nine-game road trip to face the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and Rays. Entering Sunday’s series finale, the Orioles have lost seven of eight on the trip.

In their first two games of this weekend’s series at Tampa Bay, the Orioles have been outscored, 24-7. Orioles hitters have struck out 25 times this series.

With 20 games left in the season, the Orioles (41-101) — now 60 games under .500 — are just seven losses away from setting a new club record for defeats in a season.

“I can tell you right now,” Orioles right-hander David Hess said. “Every guy in that clubhouse wants to win. You ask them what our thought is going forward, we want to go 20-0. Obviously, there’s some factors that go into everything. We’re trying to get better as a team, but at the end of the day, we all want to win. That’s what we’re working toward as a whole and individually as well. That’s the ultimate goal.”

This Orioles team seems willing to take its lumps in the season’s final three weeks, auditioning its younger players for next season. Veteran right fielder Adam Jones sat for the second straight night and the third time in six games.

“I think more than anything, you want to try and keep in mind, these guys are growing and learning just as much as I am,” Hess said. “So when they’re out, kind of going through the growing pains as well, keeping that in mind and understanding that this is going to pay off in time to come.”

Hess, who made his scheduled start Saturday despite getting hit in the left eye by a football before Friday’s game, never found a rhythm, letting five of the seven batters he faced reach base in a four-run first inning.

“We made four or five errors that won’t show up in the error column,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Not just defensive stuff. But David, I like the way he rebounded and found his step, but at this level it’s tough to feel your way around the first inning. His command came back a little bit, but he’s still having some trouble commanding the strike zone.”

On the night, Hess (3-10) allowed six runs over five innings plus a batter, but only two were earned.

Hess struggled from the beginning. His first batter, Mallex Smith, reached on third baseman Renato Núñez’s throwing error and then scored two batters later on a wild pitch when the ball flung out of Hess’ hand while the starter’s arm moved forward.

With one out, Tommy Pham tripled on a ball that bounced around right fielder Joey Rickard. Pham came home on Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly. Another run scored on three straight singles by Kevin Kiermaier, Willy Adames and Jake Bauers.

The Rays scored a fourth run off Hess when Bauers attempted to steal second, retreated to first and induced a rundown that allowed Adames to score from third.

“We had the go-ahead run at the plate, too, so our guys grinded back through it, but it’s certainly — in the situation we’re in, it casts a negative feel to it early,” Showalter said. “But it’s not all David’s fault.”

Despite the early deficit, the Orioles were within two runs twice, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to 5-3 in the fourth on Núñez’s two-run homer and then shrinking the lead to 7-5 in the seventh on Jonathan Villar’s two-run single.

Villar reached base four times, drove in three runs and was 2-for-3 on stolen-base attempts. Rickard continued his hot hitting against his old organization with three hits.

“Some of our guys are running with the opportunity and some are trying to, but haven’t been able to,” Showalter said. “Joey’s taking advantage of the playing time. I think at 27 years old, he kind of knows what’s going on here and the opportunity that he needs to take advantage of, and I really like the way he’s responding.”

Núñez and Tim Beckham also each had two hits for the Orioles. Núñez hit his fifth homer of the season and his second in four games.

Villar made a costly base-running miscue that squashed a potential Orioles rally in the top of the first. With runners at first and second and two outs, Villar unsuccessfully attempted to steal third with Chris Davis at the plate to end the inning.

“That’s my fault, because that’s the game,” Villar said. “Right-handed [pitcher]. Left-handed hitter. [Davis] hits a homer right there and it’s 3-0. I feel a little bit mentally because that’s an error mentally, not a mental error.”

eencina@baltsun.com

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