ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Embattled Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez's bid to end the club's stretch of 19 straight games of allowing at least five runs lasted all of two innings, and his second start back in the rotation didn't extend much past that.
By the time he exited the game, the Orioles were well on their way to a 15-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, dropping them to 35-38 on the season and 11-24 on the road.
The Rays scored four times in a marathon first inning to start things off on a sour note for the visitors. They added their fifth run in the second to draw the Orioles even with the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies at 20 straight games without holding an opponent under five runs.
"Got to pitch better," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Got to pitch better. It is what it is. The help's going to come from within. We've got to get back in step and create some rhythm for the offense, and even the defense gets out of rhythm a lot when the game's being played so choppy and not very crisp.
"I really don't like hanging it around one phase of it, but it starts if we could just string some good starts together, you can get into some type of rhythm."
Jiménez went to his first of four full counts on the day against speedy leadoff man Mallex Smith in the first. Once Jiménez walked him, he was so focused on throwing over to first and holding him that he walked Corey Dickerson on four pitches. Both advanced on a passed ball when Welington Castillo and Jiménez got crossed up, and scored on a single to center field by third baseman Evan Longoria.
Longoria scored on a triple by first baseman Logan Morrison, who came in on a groundout by Peterson.
After a 36-pitch first inning, Jiménez allowed just the one run in the fifth to tie the Phillies' record, but was hit hard in the third before Alec Asher replaced him.
Two-run home runs from left fielder Shane Peterson and catcher Derek Norris in the third inning spelled the end for Jiménez, who never really got in a groove.
"I didn't have anything," Jiménez said. "Fastball wasn't sinking at all. Breaking balls weren't there. I just got hit."
Jiménez went 2 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs on seven hits and four walks with one strikeout, raising his ERA from 6.25 to 7.26 in a single start.
Center fielder Adam Jones said the stretch has been difficult for everyone of late.
"It hasn't been easy, but like I said, as captain of the team, I feel like the guys are out there grinding," Jones said. "Just right now, we're in a stretch with unfamiliar territory, I think, to a lot of guys. I think that everybody, especially on the pitching front, they want to be that guy to get it done, get it done, get it done. It's frustrating. I'm sure they're more frustrated than anybody else because they're the ones out there throwing the ball. But I stick behind our pitchers, our players. I grind with them. Trust me. I know that they're frustrated. If anybody else is frustrated, imagine how they must feel."
Jiménez agreed with that assessment.
"It's been tough," he said. "It's been really tough. It's not easy to come to the stadium every day knowing that you're going to struggle. I know we're all expecting that this is going to end one of these days, but it just keeps happening. The only thing we can do is keep being positive and fighting every day."
The unraveling: Trailing 9-4 in the fifth inning, the Orioles saw their deficit double with an ugly frame that put the game even further out of reach. Asher, who hails from nearby Lakeland, Fla., loaded the bases with one out and gave way to Miguel Castro.
Castro walked in a run, and had three score on an error by first baseman Trey Mancini and one by shortstop Rubén Tejada before a sacrifice fly made it 14-4.
Showalter said the early deficits impact the defense as much as anything else.
"Just the whole game, it's tough to string much crispness together when we're a little choppy with the pitching," he said. "The guys who have been pitching well this year are still pitching well. We just haven't had a group effort yet."
Asher was charged with three runs (two earned) in two innings of relief. Castro allowed three runs (one earned) in 2 2/3 innings, and a returning Darren O'Day pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
A little rally: The Orioles cut their early 4-0 deficit in half with a promising second-inning rally that was ultimately cut short. Three singles in succession for right fielder Mark Trumbo, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and Mancini scored the first run. A second scored when the Rays turned a ground ball by Castillo into a double play, trading two outs for a run. But it petered out with the bases empty after the double play.
Schoop surges: Schoop doubled home a pair of runs after Jones and Trumbo singled to open the fourth inning, continuing a standout month for him. Schoop entered the game batting .333/.391/.679 in June.
Mancini has been every bit his equal this month, and drove in a run with an RBI double in the sixth inning. Mancini scored Jones, who had three hits on the night.