Offensive letdown

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Orioles began last night needing six hits to reach 75,000 in franchise history. Judging by the previous two games, it was fair to wonder whether they would achieve the milestone on the current road trip.

They only have until the end of the weekend.


An offense that has gone into shutdown mode again never woke up despite a change in the normal pre-game routine, and the lack of support and a controversial call doomed Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, who blanked Tampa Bay through four innings but couldn't prevent a 2-0 loss to the Rays before an announced 13,635 at Tropicana Field.

Carl Crawford hit a two-out single into right field in the fifth to score Eric Hinske with the go-ahead run, and Rays starter Matt Garza (3-1) defeated the Orioles for the second time this month by limiting them to four hits. And his win was accompanied by fireworks inside the dome.


Aubrey Huff thought he had an extra-base hit, and perhaps an RBI, in the eighth when he grounded a ball down the first base line and past the bag. Umpire Ed Hickox ruled it foul, bringing a heated protest from Huff, who slapped his helmet with both hands and hopped into the air. Nick Markakis went back to first, and Huff bounced into a double play on reliever Trever Miller's next pitch. For a team that has scored one run in its past 28 innings, the ruling was devastating. It also led to manager Dave Trembley's ejection in the bottom of the eighth.

"It's the type of ball I hit and don't even think twice about. I'm just turning for second," Huff said. "I understand Ed's human and he makes mistakes, and obviously he made one there."

Trembley put up a mild argument after the call, but he went nose-to-nose with plate umpire Ed Rapuano after making a pitching change.

"Obviously, I thought it was a fair ball and that's baseball. There's a difference of opinion," Trembley said.

The Rays added an unearned run in the eighth after George Sherrill's two-base throwing error and Carlos Pena's sacrifice fly that ended with a lunging catch by Luke Scott on the warning track. By then, Guthrie was monitoring the game from the clubhouse, where he saw a replay of Huff's grounder.

"I thought it was fair," he said.

Held to one run in their previous two games, the Orioles did some early hitting yesterday, with Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Ramon Hernandez taking turns in the cage. Hernandez tried to put the extra work to good use in the second inning, after Huff reached on a standup triple and Kevin Millar walked. Scott popped up, and Hernandez shattered his bat on a grounder to Pena, who threw out Huff at the plate.

Jones walked with two outs, but Garza retired Freddie Bynum on a grounder.


Guthrie (2-5) scattered four hits and walked three over 6 2/3 innings. Hinske singled with one out in the fifth and stole second when Hernandez bounced a throw that Roberts couldn't backhand. Hinske had come to a stop, with the intention of retreating to first.

After Jason Bartlett walked, Jones ran down Akinori Iwamura's drive to the warning track in left-center. But Crawford grounded a 2-2 pitch into right, and Hinske beat Markakis' throw home.

"I felt great out there," Guthrie said. "I had all the pitches going."

But none of the luck.