Everybody knows something is going on with this year's baseballs, and fans at Oriole Park got a look at the supposedly juiced ball in action Saturday, though not in a way that was particularly gratifying.
It was the Tampa Bay Rays who peppered the outer reaches of Camden Yards with four home runs on the way to a rain-delayed 10-3 victory before 28,346 that pushed the Orioles to the brink of a three-game sweep.
First baseman Logan Morrison homered in each of his first two at-bats, the second one landing on Eutaw Street, and Friday night hero Steven Souza Jr. followed Morrison's second homer with a moon shot that nearly hit the Chevrolet sign behind the upper bullpen in center field.
The chief victim of Saturday afternoon's meteor shower was the normally dependable Dylan Bundy (8-7), who had not given up more than two homers in any game this season before this one. The meteor shower continued in the fifth when Wilson Ramos hit his second homer of the year onto the upper level of the bullpen in center off reliever Alec Asher.
“The long ball got me in trouble today obviously," Bundy said. “Just pitches right down the middle or pitches that were up in the zone that they were able to hammer today. Tough game plan. They came out swinging the bats early. I tried to manage it, but I wasn’t able to today.”
The Orioles rotation has suffered from an epidemic of high pitch counts all season, but Bundy had been largely immune until the past few weeks. He slogged through a three-run first inning, gave up the back-to-back homers in the third and exited after the fourth just one pitch short of 100.
Through his first 14 starts he had pitched at least five innings in every outing. In his past three starts, he has made it through five just once and allowed 14 runs in just 15 1/3 innings.
Manager Buck Showalter clearly thinks fatigue has been a factor. He has been trying to carve out more rest for Bundy and said he will give him an extended breather around the All-Star break.
The Orioles (39-41) could have provided him a little more support against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi, who struggled with his command and needed 78 pitches to get through the first three innings, yet allowed just one run over that span. The Orioles did not get their first solid hit until Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run homer off Odorizzi in the fifth, and by that time they were trailing, 8-1.
Late wake-up call: Bundy had a rocky first inning in which four of the first five hitters he faced hit safely and the Rays scored three quick runs — two of them on the first homer of the game by Morrison. Then, just as suddenly, Bundy got locked in to strike out the next five batters and retired seven straight before giving up the back-to-back shots in the third, including Morrison's 24th of the season.
Marathon at-bat: Rays outfielder Shane Peterson hung in for one of the longest at-bats in baseball this season. He fouled off 11 balls in a 15-pitch at-bat in the fourth inning that ended with him winning the marathon battle with Bundy. He hit a line drive to center and legged it into a leadoff double.
Schoop making All-Star case: Schoop assumed the team lead in home runs with his 16th of the year and now has passed the half-century mark in RBIs with one game remaining in the mathematical first half of the season. That puts him on a 32-homer, 102-RBI pace. The Orioles do not have a slam-dunk All-Star, but Schoop is having the best offensive season, followed closely by Trey Mancini.
Caleb takes third: Reserve catcher Caleb Joseph made his first major league appearance at third base in the top of the ninth inning. Joseph has been taking ground balls at third base for the past few days, apparently to give Showalter an extra option at the position in an emergency. Obviously, that wasn't the case Saturday. He just provided an opportunity to get Manny Machado off the field at the end of a blowout game. Joseph got to work right away, being forced to field a grounder from Morrison, the first batter of the inning. Joseph fielded it cleanly and threw him out.
Kolarek comes home: Rays left-hander Adam Kolarek, a Catonsville High grad and former Maryland pitcher, came on for the ninth in his second career major league appearance. Kolarek, 28, ended up pitching a scoreless inning despite issuing a leadoff walk to Welington Castillo and having his defense commit an error to put two base runners on with no outs.