Bullpen falters, Birds suffer first loss

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - One of the great things about last year's Baltimore Orioles was the bullpen. After the relief pitching was solid in the season's opener, it was absolutely awful in game two.

Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop and Tommy Hunter allowed six runs in the final four innings as the Orioles lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 before 15,599 at Tropicana Field Wednesday night.

Hunter, who allowed a league-leading 32 home runs last year, gave up a leadoff homer to Matt Joyce in the ninth, and Baltimore had its first loss of the season.

"I left a pitch in the middle. He put a good swing on it. It was just not an executed pitch," Hunter said "It's just all about executing pitches. I wasn't able to do that throughout the second inning. Game's over."

Hunter retired Tampa Bay (1-1) in order in the eight, but then on the 3-1 pitch, Joyce hit it out to right field.

"You make a quality pitch right there and that makes a difference," Hunter said.

In the first two games, the Orioles have 14 runs and 24 hits.

"It was entertaining for most people. Didn't like the way it ended," manager Buck Showalter said.

Baltimore scored a run to tie the game in the ninth when Brian Roberts doubled against Fernando Rodney, who allowed just five runs in 76 appearances in 2012.

"We came real close, and I'm proud of the way our offense kept battling back. We'll be in real good shape if we can keep those two things going," Showalter said.

Wei-Yen Chen left with a 4-1 lead, but Ayala allowed a three-run home run and the Orioles were left with an uphill fight.

Baltimore took a 3-0 lead in the first on Chris Davis' second home run of the year. He hit a three-run homer in the opener as well. In the sixth, Davis scored Manny Machado with a two-out single off starter Jeremy Hellickson to make it 4-0.

Davis has seven RBIs in the first two games and four home runs at Tropicana Field in his last five games.

"I think it's more of a feeling than it is a field. I'm not chasing a lot of pitches, trying to get a pitch to hit and not miss it," Davis said. "I saw flashbacks of last year, when [it looked like] we were going into extra innings. But what is this, Game 2? We've got a few left to play."

Chen had allowed five hits in the first five innings, but thanks to three double plays, no runs scored.

"My control and my command wasn't there early in the game. I just tried to throw strikes, and it's hard for me especially [because] they swing at everything. It was hard for me in the beginning," Chen said through his interpreter.

In the sixth, he allowed a one-out double to Desmond Jennings and a two-out RBI single to Ben Zobrist. Showalter put Ayala in the game, and he allowed a single to Evan Longoria, and a game-tying three-run homer to Shelley Duncan.

The Orioles took a 5-4 lead in the seventh on Nate McLouth's RBI single, but Strop, who had been so impressive during spring training, gave up three runs on four hits and a wild pitch.

"It's frustrating because they scored a couple runs and we had a chance to win that game, and they just scored a couple runs on some crazy stuff but I just tried to keep my mind in the game," Strop said.

NOTES: Davis is the first player in team history to collect three or more RBIs in his first two games. ... Showalter put McLouth in the leadoff spot and Nick Markakis in the third spot.

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