The Orioles have remained atop the American League East standings despite an offense that has yet to truly find its footing this season. Yes, they’ve had their share of timely hits to pull out close games, but pitching has kept the Orioles in first place, and their bats hit a new low Tuesday night in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Orioles (13-6) were held to two hits – hitting just four balls out of the infield in a game that the Rays were content to pitch out of the bullpen.
In being dealt their first shutout loss of the season, the Orioles wasted a third consecutive quality start by left-hander Wade Miley, who went seven innings despite walking six batters.
After Tuesday’s defeat, they have scored three or fewer runs in six of their past eight games, averaging just 2.6 runs over that span.
“It’s not where we want it,” said Orioles designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. “It’s not where I want it. There are probably quite a few guys in here that aren’t all that pleased, but that’s part of the game. Everyone in here has struggled. Everyone has done well. We’ve got a great team. This is just kind of a little funk, and we’ll move past.”
The Orioles again are seemingly dependent on the home run. They have won 10 of 11 this season when they homer and are 3-5 when they don’t.
They were held to two hits Tuesday, none after Jonathan Schoop’s one-out double in the second. After that hit, 23 of the final 25 Orioles hitters were retired.
“They pitched real well,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Made a lot of quality pitches in some really tough conditions. There’s a lot of excuses there if you want to reach for them, but we’re not going to. Will be nice to get outside [to take BP]. Hopefully we can get some work tomorrow and swing the bats better.”
The Orioles were shut out by five Tampa Bay pitchers, including rookie right-hander Austin Pruitt, who threw three shutout innings as an 11th-hour fill-in making his first major league start.
The Orioles still managed to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth when Davis drew a two-out walk, but Rays closer Alex Colome struck out Trumbo to end the game.
Miley (1-1) walked six batters over seven innings and allowed two runs – both runs scored against him reaching base on walks – but held Tampa Bay to four hits and struck out eight. He allowed just one hit – two base runners – over his final three innings.
Over his previous two outings, Miley walked just one batter over 14 innings after walking five in his five-inning season debut April 9.
Despite his wavering control, Miley has a 2.08 ERA through four starts this season.
“I let myself get a little upset with some of the calls,” Miley said. ‘They were borderline pitches, could have gone either way and I guess you get in those situations and you can try to do a little too much and it can put you behind the eight ball a little bit. But overall, I was able to get through seven.”
Pruitt starts at the last minute: Pruitt received his first major league start when he replaced scheduled starter Erasmo Ramirez, who was scratched just before the game because of “uncertain weather conditions.”
In his first career appearance against the Orioles, Pruitt held them to one hit over three scoreless innings before Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash went to the bullpen.
Pruitt stranded two runners in scoring position in the second inning. After Hyun Soo Kim was hit by a pitch with one out and Schoop hit a double to left, Pruitt induced a quick groundout from J.J. Hardy and struck out Caleb Joseph looking to end the inning.
That was the Orioles’ best scoring opportunity of the night.
Showalter said he was told Pruitt would replace Ramirez about 20 minutes before the game started, but said the Orioles weren’t unprepared to face Pruitt.
“We go over all of them in the advance meeting,” Showalter said. “We have all the information we need.”
Cash said after the game that he expected a rain delay and planned to pitch Ramirez once play resumed.
Getting a little help: Miley was in trouble early in the third inning, allowing consecutive singles to No. 9 hitter Peter Bourjos and Steven Souza Jr.
But catcher Joseph caught Bourjos hung up between second and third base after Kevin Kiermaier pulled away from a bunt attempt, erasing the lead runner in a rundown.