BALTIMORE—The Orioles had beaten the Tampa Bay Rays just once in 17 games this season, and going into the eighth inning, the Orioles had a one-run lead.
John Means, who has won just once since throwing a no-hitter on May 5th, pitched six scoreless innings and allowed two runs in the seventh.
Cole Sulser began the eighth for the Orioles and allowed a two-run home run to Randy Arozarena, who has battered their pitching all season long, and the Rays had a 4-3 win before an announced crowd of 11,110 at Camden Yards on Saturday night.
Arozarena is batting .429 against the Orioles this season and has eight home runs and 18 RBIs.
“We just don’t pitch well against him,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “His numbers against everybody else aren’t what they are against us. He’s hurt us, and he hurt us again tonight.”
The Orioles (40-88) have lost 17 of 18 to the Rays (81-48), who lead the American League East by five games over the New York Yankees.
Sulser (3-3) walked Kevin Kiermaier, his first batter in the eighth. On a 2-1 count, Arozarena hit his 17th home run to give the Rays a 4-3 lead.
“I felt like I made a pretty good pitch to him,” Sulser said. “The problem is I fell behind in the count, which definitely gives the hitter more control. He can be more selective, more aggressive on the pitch. It’s my fault for falling behind. He put a good swing on, I think, a well-located pitch, but I can’t fall behind in the count like that.”
After ending their 19-game losing streak, the Orioles beat the Los Angeles Angels twice, but have lost twice to the Rays.
“No matter what, no matter how many close games you’re in or not, you want to win every one of them,” Sulser said. “To go out there and not feel like I did my job when the rest of the team did a really good job today is disappointing for sure.”
The Rays’ J.T. Chargois (4-0) and Andrew Kittredge combined for three perfect innings. Kittredge recorded his fourth save.
“We’re mainly right-handed, and these guys are really good against right-handed hitters,” Hyde said. “We don’t have a ton of balance and we’re easy to match up against.”
Oriole catcher Pedro Severino led off the fifth with a double. With one out, Jorge Mateo struck out. Kelvin Gutiérrez walked against Michael Wacha, who was replaced by Adam Conley, who hit his first batter, Cedric Mullins, to load the bases.
Ryan Mountcastle hit a long fly to left, and Severino scored.
Austin Hays tripled with one out in the sixth. Ramón Urías walked. Severino hit a double to score Hays, and Mateo blooped a single to center to score Urías to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
With one out in the seventh, Wandy Diaz singled and, after Brandon Lowe doubled, Dillon Tate relieved him and allowed both to score. Austin Meadows grounded to second to scoredDiaz, and Joey Wendle doubled to drive in Lowe, reducing the Orioles’ lead to 3-2 and set up the Rays’ comeback win.
Means allowed two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five.
“That seventh inning, I’ve got to be able to shut the door, especially after scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth. That shutdown inning is so important, and I just couldn’t get the job done,” Means said. “That last part left a sour taste in my mouth.”
In Means’ previous start, he allowed three runs on four hits in six innings against Atlanta in a 3-1 loss on August 23rd.
“I felt a little bit more relaxed tonight,” Means said. “I was putting unneeded pressure on myself. I was just trying to have fun, relax and just play the game. It seemed to help me.”
Means knows how difficult Tampa Bay is to play against.
“They know how to put their guys in positions to succeed,” he said. They just know how to win.
“They seem to string hits together and string scoreless innings together…It seems like they’re having a lot of fun out there, and that’s the thing I think we can definitely use.”
Notes: Spenser Watkins (2-6, 7.07 ERA) will face Chris Archer (0-1, 4.26) on Sunday afternoon at 1:05. … The Orioles have lost eight straight games to Tampa Bay at Oriole Park, the longest single-season losing streak to an opponent in ballpark history.
Minor league update: Triple-A Norfolk managed just two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Nick Vespi (1-2) allowed a seventh-inning home run to Lewin Diaz. Alexander Wells started and was removed after two scoreless innings and 26 pitches.
Grayson Rodriguez allowed two runs on three hits in five innings, striking out nine and walking two in Erie’s 6-5 win over Double-A Bowie in 10 innings. Leftfielder Johnny Rizer hit a grand slam, his 10th home run. Second baseman Terrin Vavra had two hits and an RBI.
Connor Loeprich (0-4) allowed two runs on three hits in five innings in High-Aberdeen’s 4-1 loss to Brooklyn. Loeprich walked four and struck out four.
Low-A Delmarva scored four runs in the 10th inning to beat Salem, 7-3. Shortstop Darell Hernaiz, rightfielder Billy Cook and catcher Ryne Ogren each had three hits and drove in two runs. Cook hit his first home run. Jean Pinto started and allowed two runs on one hit in five innings, walking three and striking out six.