After enduring a 14-game losing streak, equaling the second longest in club history, the Orioles hoped they had turned a page with a strong start in June.
On Saturday, though, they set a club record by losing their 14th straight road game, 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Their last road win came on May 5th when John Means threw a no-hitter.
“It’s not fun to lose,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We came up a run short today and came up two runs short yesterday, so hopefully we can turn it around tomorrow.”
The Orioles have lost five straight against the Rays this year and 11 of 12 going back to last season. They’ve lost 10 straight series to the Rays at Tropicana Field and haven’t won one there since June 23-25, 2017.
Tampa Bay scored three runs against starter Jorge López in the first on a run-scoring double by Joey Wendle, and RBI singles by Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier.
Brandon Lowe’s two-run double in the fourth gave Tampa Bay a 5-0 lead.
“I thought he threw the ball great,” Hyde said about López. “He got beat with three opposite-field soft singles in the first inning, which led to three runs. He didn’t give up a hard-hit ball until … the fifth. Hardly any hard contact.
“He got really, really unlucky. We didn’t make a couple of plays that would have [lengthened] his outing.”
Tampa Bay starter Rich Hill had allowed just one hit in the first four innings. In the fifth, Ryan Mountcastle drew a leadoff walk. Austin Hays struck out, and Freddy Galvis singled. Both runners moved up a base on a Hill wild pitch. Pat Valaika walked to load the bases, and catcher Austin Wynns hit a grand slam, reducing the margin to 5-4.
“I was trying to get the boys on the right track,” Wynns said. “We’re playing hard. Their bullpen shut us down, and we were trying to get something going.”
Cedric Mullins singled, and Ryan Thompson replaced Hill. After a stolen base by Mullins, Thompson struck out Trey Mancini to end the inning.
The Rays (41-24) threatened in the fifth, and López was relieved by Tanner Scott with Austin Meadows on third and Wendle on first with two outs. Scott struck out Kiermaier on a 99-mph fastball for the third out.
López (2-7) allowed five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
“I had really bad luck,” López said. “[There wasn’t] anything going our way.”
Collin McHugh (1-1) struck out five batters in two scoreless innings. Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo pitched shutout innings. Castillo earned his 11th save. The Orioles had only two hits in the final four innings.
Wynns was impressed with the Rays’ bullpen.
“Quality at-bats, timely hitting, pitching, quality starts, we need everyone in our bullpen,” Wynns said. “We all have to mesh and something has to click, and we have to find a way. We have to find a way. We played really hard today, and they shut the door on us. Their bullpen shut the door on us, that’s for sure.”
In the first two games of the series, the Orioles (22-41) have just two hits in 7 1/3 innings against the Rays’ bullpen.
“It feels like when we play Tampa the majority of games have been like that,” Hyde said. “We’re chasing a run or two. We have a hard time once we get into their bullpen, pushing a run or two across to get even or take a lead.
“That’s how it’s been for the last couple of years, for sure. They have really good stuff out of their ‘pen against everybody in the league. That’s why they’re in first place, the best record in the American League. That’s why they went to the World Series last year.
“They do a great job in their organization of acquiring and claiming and producing really, really good bullpen arms. They have a ton of guys on the [injured list] that we saw last year. They continue to get really good arms. They give you all sorts of looks that are easy to match up with your hitters.”
Notes: The Orioles have lost five straight road series after winning four, splitting one and losing one of their first six road series this season. … Wynns’ grand slam was the first by an Orioles ninth-place hitter since Brian Roberts hit one on August 23, 2013. … Bruce Zimmermann (4-3, 4.83 ERA) will face Michael Wacha (1-1, 4.54) on Sunday at 1:10 p.m.