ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Wade Miley's final start of the season Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays might have also been his last in an Orioles uniform.
The team has time to decide whether to pick up Miley's $12 million option for next season or give him a $500,000 buyout check and send him to free agency. But Miley surely didn't help his cause at Tropicana Field on Friday night, showing the same inconsistency that's plagued him all season long.
A 7-0 loss to the Rays sent the Orioles (75-85) to their 17th loss in their past 21 games and assured them of no better than a fourth-place finish in the American League East with two games remaining.
Miley (8-15) showed moments of dominance along with control problems, and ultimately lasted just two batters into the fifth inning Friday, marking his third straight start where he's been unable to get at least five innings deep.
"I had a good rhythm early on," Miley said. "Kind of staying in my delivery and really staying behind the ball and locating it like I know I'm capable of. And then just got quick on me. But again, it's been par for the course all year long. Just struggling to stay in my delivery and stay in my mechanics and it puts you in the hole."
Miley struck out five batters in his first two innings, including opening the game by striking out the side in the first inning, but his five walks led to a quick departure. Orioles pitchers allowed just seven hits, but issued 10 walks and hit a batter, with three of those free passes coming around to score. It marked the third time this season that the Orioles issued 10 walks in a nine-inning game, something they did just three times over the previous eight seasons combined.
"Hurt us all," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the walks. "What did we walk, eight, nine, 10? We walked the ballpark. Can't do that. And that's been a challenge for him and a lot of guys."
Meanwhile, the Orioles managed just four hits in a game when Rays starter Jake Odorizzi was forced from the game after pitching just four innings
In the fourth inning, a leadoff single by César Puello — a ball that hit off the staircase connecting two of the dome's catwalks and dropped in front of catcher Welington Castillo — started a two-run inning when Miley walked in a run with the bases loaded and allowed a sacrifice fly to put the Rays up 3-0.
"None of the four umpires could tell if it hit it," Showalter said of Puello's hit. "The problem is, our replay has no angle that goes up to correct them. That ring's in foul ground, which should have been a foul ball, but when they tell me that all four of them couldn't tell if it hit it or not and where we were, it was obvious that it hit it. So, we were trying to go to replay to correct it and help them out and replay has no angle that shows that it hit it. It leaves me no course of action to go to replay to correct it, so another flaw in the ballpark. It's been that way for a long time."
Miley wouldn't record an out in the fifth, allowing a leadoff homer to Evan Longoria and a double to Logan Morrison before he was replaced by right-hander Chris Tillman.
Since pitching a quality start on Sept. 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays in a game that dropped his season ERA to 4.91, Miley has a 12.56 ERA in the four starts since. He finished with four earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts Friday. His 15 losses on the season are the most by an Orioles' pitcher since Jeremey Guthrie lost an AL-high 17 games in 2011. He is also the first Orioles pitcher to record five losses in September since Daniel Cabrera in 2007.
"Not very positive," Miley said of his season. "It's hopefully one to put behind me. Go to the offseason and work on some things to get back and figure out how to mechanically repeat my delivery and spend a lot of time working on that. I think that's the big issue. I just fall out in the middle of the game, lose it for 15 pitches and walk three guys and than you get back to throwing strikes and they're hunting heaters there. And that's when the damage comes."
Tillman threw two scoreless frames before unraveling in the seventh, allowing a leadoff homer to Morrison, hitting Puello and walking Trevor Plouffe. Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis allowed both base runners to score after a wild pitch and two sacrifice flies.
The Orioles had just one extra-base hit on the night, Manny Machado's one-out double down the left-field line in the fourth. But that threat was quickly quelled when Machado was thrown out attempting to steal third base.
Four Rays relievers combined to hold the Orioles scoreless for the final five innings, allowing just two hits.
"I'm going to give them credit," Showalter said. "They pitched well. We're not swinging the bats very well. That's been obvious for a while here. It's that time of year. September, you get a lot of different looks. … It's just a lot of different looks … it's inning to inning. Usually someone has to pitch long relief when it's not September, but it's not the case."
Asked whether he believes he will be brought back next season, Miley shrugged and said, "I have no idea."
"I'm just going to look forward to the offseason," Miley said. "It's been a long year, no doubt. I hated that I didn't perform here. Who knows what's going to happen? I competed; looking back, I gave everything I had. It just wasn't very good. It's one of those things where nobody wants to go through that. I did and hopefully I can learn from it and move forward."
Mancini up to 17: Trey Mancini's seventh-inning single extended his hitting streak to 17 games and also gave him 158 hits on the season, which tied him with Cal Ripken Jr. (1982) for the second-most hits in a season by an Orioles rookie.
Eddie Murray owns the team record with 173 hits in 1977.
Mancini's hitting streak, which was already the longest hitting streak by a rookie in Orioles history, is now the longest by any rookie this season. Ben Gamel of the Seattle Mariners had a 16-game streak.
Mancini's streak is also tied for fifth longest by any hitter this season.
Beckham leaves with injury: Shortstop Tim Beckham left Friday's game after pulling up while running out a ground ball to second base to end the top of the eighth inning, an apparent aggravation of the right hamstring pull that kept him out of the previous three games.
Beckham was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on the night. He was replaced at shortstop by Jonathan Schoop, who shifted over from second base. Ryan Flaherty entered to play second base.