BALTIMORE - Seven days ago, the Baltimore Orioles participated in one of the most memorable games in club history.

For four innings on Sunday, they played lethargically, and then nearly pulled off another remarkable comeback.

In the end, they lost 9-8 to the Tampa Bay Rays before 29,552 at Oriole Park.

It wasn't a 17-inning game with two position players pitching the final inning. Nor did it have the dramatics of Josh Hamilton's four home run game.

"We lost by a hair," Nick Markakis said.

In the ninth, it took a neat backhanded play by Tampa Bay third baseman Sean Rodriguez and an equally nifty scoop by first baseman Carlos Pena on a grounder by Matt Wieters to end the Orioles' threat.

"We made a run at the end there, and if Pena doesn't catch that ball there, we may possibly win that game there," Markakis said.

The Orioles (22-13) are still in first place in the AL East. They won two of three from the Rays (21-14), and are 8-5 in perhaps their most difficult stretch of the season.

In the ninth, with Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney on the mound, the Orioles had first and second with two outs. Adam Jones slowly grounded to third. Rodriguez threw wildly at first to enable J.J. Hardy to score the eighth run.

Wieters followed with the game-ending grounder.

"We had a chance in the ninth and just didn't come through," he said.

Trailing 7-1 in the fourth, they scored three runs in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Hardy and Markakis and a two-run home run by Wieters, his eighth off James Shields (6-1).

In the seventh, Markakis' two-run double cut the Rays lead to 7-6, but Jones struck out to end the inning.

Their ultra-reliable bullpen was strong after Arrieta was knocked out in the fourth, but in the eighth, Troy Patton allowed back-to-back home runs to Elliott Johnson and Ben Zobrist.

Jake Arrieta (2-4) allowed a career-high 10 hits in just 3 2/3 innings, and it clearly wasn't his day. Arrieta gave up lots of hits that just seemed to fall in, but few seemed particularly hard hit. After a brilliant five-hit eight-inning shutout performance at Yankee Stadium, Arrieta has allowed 13 runs in 10 innings.

"I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself to put up quality outings," Arrieta said. "I think I need to relax a little bit, and trust myself because I'm more than capable to making good pitchers when I need to get guys out."

In the first 34 games of the season, the Orioles have taken at least one series from their four division opponents, the first time that's happened so quickly since 2005.

Baltimore is 12-6 against the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays, and while they lost on Sunday, their comeback from a six-run deficit was heartening.

"I don't like the word 'satisfied,'" manager Buck Showalter said. "We know what the job description is here at the end of the day-to win."

NOTES: The Orioles purchased the contract of Xavier Avery from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned reliever Stu Pomeranz to the Tides. Pomeranz didn't allow a run in four innings. Avery, who was the Orioles' second-round pick in 2008, was 0-for-4 in his debut. ... Matt Antonelli, a utility infielder who didn't make the club out of spring training, and was batting just .201 for Norfolk, was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Avery. ... Showalter said that Jason Hammel's right knee was fine, and he's scheduled to start Monday against Ivan Nova (4-1) as the Orioles play the first of two games with New York. On Tuesday, Wei-Yin Chen (3-0) and CC Sabathia (5-0) are the probables. ... Adrienne Roberson, the Bowie Baysox public address announcer, was at the microphone in honor of Mother's Day.

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