BALTIMORE - When the Tampa Bay Rays got runners on base, they capitalized by driving them in and scoring runs. But when the Baltimore Orioles inherited those opportunities, they failed, especially early on.
That's been the difference in the first two games of the series this week.
On Tuesday, the Orioles mustered only five hits and failed to make the most of their best scoring chances. They also struggled to produce any scoring early, as they fell to the Rays 7-4 before 26,158 at Camden Yards, guaranteeing a series loss to their AL East foe.
Despite winning the series against the Colorado Rockies during the weekend, the Orioles have lost six of eight, as they continue to slide.
However, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter is not worried.
"You'd be surprised how quickly this season can slow down and things can turn quickly, so you've got to be prepared to take advantage of that, and we have the people to do it," Showalter said. "At some point, some of the frustration they feel will start getting played out on the field toward the opposition."
The Orioles (67-58) had their best chance to break out in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday when they loaded the bases with no outs using a pair of walks and a single. A run scored on a double play by Brian Roberts, as Baltimore missed its best opportunity to take the lead.
Two of the Orioles' five hits in the game were immediately followed by double plays.
"Tampa Bay is good," Showalter said. "They pitch real well, and that really gives their team a chance to really play the game offensively the way they want to because there aren't many big innings there."
In the first six innings, the Orioles' only two hits against Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb were a pair of singles in the second. In that inning, Matt Wieters reached base on an error by Evan Longoria and later scored on an RBI single by Ryan Flaherty, which tied the game 1-1.
Cobb (8-2), who gave up two runs on three hits over six-plus innings, loaded the bases to lead off the seventh, but his win was held in check by Rays reliever Alex Torres. Cobb has won back-to-back starts since coming off the disabled list, giving up just two earned runs throughout 11 innings.
"He's tough. He's got three really good pitches. He can locate his fastball really well," said Baltimore left fielder Nate McLouth, who went 0 for 5. "He's able to do some things if you get behind in the count."
The Orioles trailed by just one run entering the ninth inning, as they still had a chance to earn a come-from-behind win. But then Tampa Bay's (72-52) bats exploded.
Baltimore reliever T.J. McFarland was charged with four runs in the inning, with the major blow coming on a two-run double by Joyce after McFarland had been succeeded by Jim Johnson.
The Orioles got a two-run homer from Wieters in the bottom of the ninth to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 7-4. But Rays closer Fernando Rodney came on and got three straight outs to earn his 29th save.
Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez (8-6) kept the Orioles in the game but did not have the run support to win and was handed the loss. He gave up an unearned run in the second on an RBI single by Yunel Escobar.
Then in the third, he yielded an RBI double to deep right to Ben Zobrist. Zobrist later scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Joyce to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.
"It was a little tough for me to bring them down," Gonzalez said. "I was doing as much as possible to try and do it, bring the ball down. It was just one of those outings."
The Orioles right-hander is now winless in his past five starts. He is 0-3 during that stretch, and has given up three or more runs in four of those outings.
Even though Baltimore has begun to slide in both the AL East and AL Wild Card standings, the Orioles are continuing to look forward and believe they will still be making a run in September.
"There's still plenty of baseball left for us to make up some ground," McLouth said. "It's not ideal at all, but we won't let this game affect tomorrow's game."