On the night of the Orioles Hall of Fame ceremony, which featured heartfelt messages, tears and standing ovations, the O’s again watched another lead falter at the bat of Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
With a runner on second in the top of the fifth and Cruz’s team trailing by a run, the former Oriole launched a two-run home run to center field, jump-starting a 12-3 victory Saturday.
This was the fourth straight game in which the Orioles allowed double-digit runs, setting a franchise record.
“They’re phenomenal hitters, up and down the lineup,” Orioles starting pitcher Spenser Watkins said. “There’s really not a spot that you can pick out and say, ‘OK, I can take a little bit of a breath here.’”
The bullpen struggles mounted in the top of the eighth inning. The Rays had the bases loaded with one out when former Maryland Terrapin Brandon Lowe connected on the first pitch thrown by César Valdez and sent it deep to left field for a grand slam. Rays shortstop Wander Franco followed with a two-out solo shot to right, Tampa Bays fourth homer of the night.
“We’re not throwing the ball well out of the ‘pen,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re just inconsistent. César had a nice little run there for a few games. He’s struggled his last two.”
Watkins had given up four runs in each of his previous two starts. The narrative continued in his sixth start this season, as he allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in six innings.
Rays first baseman Yandy Díaz sat on a 1-2 curveball, then launched the ball into left field for his eighth home run, which gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. After Joey Wendle singled to left, Manuel Margot hit a ground-rule double over center fielder Cedric Mullins’ head. The Rays tacked on another run when Wendle scored on Kevin Kiermaier’s groundout.
Pregame, the fans rose to their feet to honor the team’s Hall of Fame inductees, shortstop J.J. Hardy, outfielder Mike Devereaux, broadcaster Joe Angel and super fan Mo Gaba.
Fans again — if only briefly — found themselves with something to cheer in the bottom of the third inning when Mullins hit a two-run homer to center to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead. He extended his hitting streak to a career-tying 15 games.
Watkins (2-3) pitched two scoreless innings before running into trouble again in the fifth. Lowe, who finished with five RBIs, doubled, then Cruz sent a 1-1 pitch into the stands for his second home run of the series, giving the Rays a 4-3 lead they never relinquished. On Friday night, the 41-year-old homered and had five RBIs, and he has 10 RBIs in 12 games since being acquired from the Minnesota Twins on July 22 in a trade.
“It’s frustrating for me in a sense of battling for our guys to gain the lead early on in those innings, and then to kind of lose that lead,” Watkins said of the fifth inning. “I want to build momentum. I want our guys to go out there, put up some runs, me put up a zero, another zero, another zero so we can put ourselves in a good position later in the game.”
After a three-run third inning, Rays pitcher Shane McClanahan (6-4) held the Orioles scoreless for four consecutive innings, allowing only one hit. The Baltimore native struck out eight batters and walked just one in seven innings.
The first-place Rays (67-44), who are 10-1 against the last-place Orioles ((38-71) this season, extended their lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth when outfielder Brett Phillips doubled double down the right-field line, scoring Wendle. Phillips entered the game in center field in the third inning after Kiermaier left with right knee soreness. The Rays announced during the game that Kiermaier’s exit was for precautionary reasons.
Hyde said he was impressed with right-handed pitcher Dusten Knight’s performance out of the ’pen. Knight pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and four strikeouts.
“I liked the way Knight threw the ball tonight,” Hyde said. “I thought he pitched with some guts and I thought the stuff is interesting, so for me, that was the highlight of the night.”
Pedro Severino exits in fourth with bruised right knee
Orioles catcher Pedro Severino was replaced by Austin Wynns in the top of the fourth inning after suffering a bruised right knee. Severino struck out in two at-bats before exiting the game. Hyde said Severino will get his knee checked out in the morning.
Before Saturday’s loss, Severino had been solid at the plate the past 15 games, batting .308 with four home runs and nine RBIs.
Around the horn
- The Orioles made some roster moves before the game, recalling right-handed pitcher Isaac Mattson from Triple-A Norfolk and reinstated left-handed pitcher Ryan Hartman from the COVID-19 injured list. Pitcher Connor Greene was designated for assignment after giving up three runs against the Rays on Friday night. Mattson appeared in the ninth inning and allowed two runs.
- Orioles outfielder Ryan Mountcastle is still in concussion protocols. Hyde said the club is proceeding with caution and that Mountcastle is trending toward a possible stint on the injured list
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
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