ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Two days ago, Josh Rogers said he didn’t know whether his season was over or not. He knew that the Orioles wanted to protect their newly acquired left-hander as his season inning total reached 150, but there was also the possibility he would be thrown into a Sunday start if Alex Cobb’s blister problems lingered.
Rogers was optimistic to get another opportunity to pitch — especially coming off a strong start in Seattle his last time out in his second big league start — and physically felt like he still had plenty of innings left in him.
He received that extra start on Sunday, and if it is his last, it will end his most accomplished professional season on a sour note.
Rogers lasted just 1 1/3 innings, falling behind six runs early in an eventual 8-3 Orioles loss to the Rays, sealing a three-game sweep by Tampa Bay and ending the Orioles’ three-city, cross-country, nine-game road trip with an 1-8 record.
In their three-game series at Tropicana Field, the Orioles were outscored 32-10.
The Orioles, now 41-102, need to finish 15-4 to avoid having the most losses of any team in the Orioles’ 65-season history. Thirteen of the Orioles’ final 19 games are against teams that have the best four records in the majors — the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros and Athletics.
In his two previous starts, Rogers — one of three pitchers acquired from the Yankees last month for closer Zach Britton — showed the ability to limit the damage while eating some innings. He held Seattle to two runs over 5 1/3 innings. But on Sunday, he allowed eight of the 12 batters he faced to reach base. He yielded five runs in the first, capped by a three-run homer by Rays rookie second baseman Brandon Lowe, a University of Maryland product.
“Just elevated everything, “said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who said the team will consider shutting Rogers down after Sunday’s effort. “Wasn’t very crisp today. You could see his velocity was down a little bit and he was elevating everything, and they had their way with him.”
If this is Rogers’ last outing, he said it will be a difficult one to go out on.
“Yeah it’s pretty unfortunate because I’ve had too pretty OK outings starting my career off and trying to build off those,” he said. “This will sink in and it’ll be a long offseason thinking about this one, but just taking away the positives of the experience of being here so far. It’s a learning experience and it’s a great opportunity here and I’m excited about it.”
The 24-year-old looked tired. His four-seam fastball was more than 1 mph less than his average coming into the game. He struggled with command of his fastball and slider, and when he did find the zone, his pitches were hittable for a Rays lineup looking to jump on the Orioles early for a second straight day.
The first three Orioles hitters were walked by Rays opener Ryne Stanek — a leadoff walk was erased when leadoff man Cedric Mullins was thrown out attempting to steal second — so his exit came before he could record an out. But right-hander Ronny Chirinos entered, prevented the Orioles from scoring a run in the first and pitched 6 1/3 innings, holding the Orioles to three runs.
Rogers left the game after allowing three of the first four hitters he faced to reach base in the second inning.
Jace Peterson hit a two-run double in the seventh and scored on Caleb Joseph’s sacrifice fly to account for the Orioles’ runs.
Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings of long relief, the only scoring off him coming on Carlos Gomez’s solo homer in the sixth. Right-hander Miguel Castro allowed a run in the eighth.
“Yac was good,” Showalter said. “Just got ambushed one time with a fastball.”