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Orioles recap: Birds lose ground to Red Sox with 7-6 loss to Rays

Manager Buck Showalter follows up just about every strong run by the Orioles with the warning that "momentum is only as good as your next starting pitcher," but he would rather not be proved right so easily.

The Orioles looked like they were ready to take on the world after coming back from one of their best road trips in recent memory, but they hit one of the soft spots in their rotation and squandered all that positive energy faster than you can say Yovani Gallardo in a 7-6 loss to the last-place Tampa Bay Rays before 19,233 at Oriole Park on Thursday.

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If that wasn’t bad enough, soon after the Orioles missed a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, the Boston Red Sox scored five times in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park to upend the New York Yankees and widen their division lead over the O’s to two games.
It was a galling loss for a number of reasons, starting with Gallardo’s early collapse and including three chances to rally in the late innings. The Orioles scored four times in the bottom of the first, but went hitless in their final 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“It’s a tough loss, because we fought back and had a chance there in which we left a lot of opportunities out there today," catcher Matt Wieters said. “But to have a chance there in the ninth inning there is all you can ask for. We didn’t come through today so we’ll have to come through tomorrow.”
Of course, the last thing just about anybody at Camden Yards wanted to see Thursday night was Gallardo walking the first two batters of the game and then serving up a first-pitch three-run home run to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. But that’s how quickly a team can go from looking invincible to looking incomprehensible.
The Orioles came back to take the lead in the bottom of the first inning, but Gallardo continued to struggle and the Rays scored in each of their next three times up.
“He wasn’t the only one," Showalter said of Gallardo. “We had some opportunities we didn’t cash in on and we didn’t initially stem the tide when we went to the bullpen, so all those things kind of add up.”

So let's review: Three-run first inning. No shutdown second inning. Six runs in 3 1/3 innings. And Showalter indicated that Wade Miley would probably get the start Sunday.

Momentum is a fragile, fragile thing when your starting rotation has such a soft underbelly.

All the leading indicators: Past performance obviously doesn't mean a whole lot either. The Orioles came into the game undefeated against the Rays in their first six meetings at Camden Yards this season and – of course – have one of the best home records in all of baseball. They still have an 11-5 record on the season series against the Rays, but would rather not have things start to even out during this final homestand.

Right back at ya': Apparently, Showalter's momentum theory also can apply to the opposing pitcher. Left-hander Blake Snell allowed first-inning singles to Adam Jones and Manny Machado, and loaded the bases with an eight-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo. The Orioles flirted with a scoreless inning when Chris Davis looked at a called third strike, but Matt Wieters dunked a two-run single to left and red-hot J.J. Hardy banged a double off the center-field fence for two more runs. Just like that, the Orioles went from three runs down to a run up in a first inning that lasted more than a half-hour.

The scoreboard watch: It seemed apparent from the start that the Orioles would have a good chance to move up in the standings, because New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was pitching a gem in Boston and the Yankees quickly built a 5-1 lead before the bullpen collapsed. The best thing about Thursday night was that the wild-card-hopeful Detroit Tigers had already lost and the only other teams with a chance to gain on the wild card leaders settled for a half-game because they didn’t play.

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