BALTIMORE (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays hit three home runs and scored a whopping four runs, which these days amounts to offensive fireworks for a team struggling at the plate.
And so, even though the Rays dropped a 5-4 decision to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night — their fourth straight defeat — manager Joe Maddon spoke optimistically about a potential turnaround.
“I thought it was a great game. I was really pleased with our guys tonight,” Maddon said. “Some people might not understand that, but you got to build little bit at a time to get back where you want to be. I was really pleased with the attitude, the effort. Not the results, (but) that will come.”
Article continues below ...
Desmond Jennings homered on the game’s first pitch for Tampa Bay, and Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria connected off Pedro Strop in the eighth. But the Rays could muster only six hits against Jake Arrieta and five relievers.
Still, Tampa Bay totaled more runs than in its previous three games combined, and the three home runs lifted its total for the season to eight.
“Saw a lot of pitches, saw better at-bats,” Maddon said. “They got us, but we played a good game. We keep playing like that we’ll win a lot of games again.”
With a 4-9 record, Tampa Bay has matched the worst start in franchise history (2001 and 2005).
“As long as players don’t quit on themselves then we’re in good shape, and we’re not going to do that because I’m not going to do that,” Maddon said. “I like the battle. I like the fight. The work has been great. It’s going to flip.”
Matt Wieters homered and Nate McLouth scored twice for the Orioles, who held on for their fifth straight home win over the Rays, dating back to last year.
Last-place Tampa Bay has lost seven of eight. The Rays went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and are 1 for 34 in that situation over their past eight games.
Arrieta (1-0) gave up one run, three hits and five walks in five-plus innings to earn his first win since last June 13. He struck out seven.
“He is the winning pitcher tonight in a major league game against an American League East team,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m proud of him for battling through. He had some chances to give in, he didn’t. (After) the first hitter, he came back and gave us a chance to win.”
Jim Johnson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save in six tries.
Tampa Bay right-hander Roberto Hernandez (0-3) allowed five runs, three earned, and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. Two of his three losses have come against the Orioles.
Jennings hit Arrieta’s initial offering over the left-field wall, equaling the Rays’ home run total over their previous seven games. It was the first time this season that Baltimore surrendered a first-inning run.
In the bottom half, McLouth walked, stole second and scored on a double by Manny Machado.
Wieters led off the second with a drive to right for a 2-1 lead. He has nine hits this season, two of them homers.
Baltimore added a run in the third when McLouth doubled and scored on a single by Nick Markakis. The inning ended when Chris Davis struck out, then angrily cracked the bat over his knee.
The Orioles made it 5-1 with two unearned runs in the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, Longoria threw wide of the plate after fielding a grounder to third by J.J. Hardy. That produced a run, and another scored on a groundout by Ryan Flaherty.
Johnson led off the eighth with a homer on a 3-2 pitch. After Ben Zobrist drew a walk, Longoria homered for the second time in two games. Both his extra-base hits this season have been long balls.
NOTES: There was a moment of silence before the game and an increased police presence at Camden Yards in the wake of the deadly explosions at the Boston Marathon. Asked if there might be an uneasy feeling at ballparks now,” Maddon said, “I don’t think so. I’d like to believe that is an isolated incident that was planned for that one particular moment. I might be wrong.” … All the players on both teams wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. … Jennings has five career leadoff homers. … Rays SS Yunel Escobar went 0 for 4 and is 4 for 45 (.089) this season. … Nate Moore, who has not allowed a run in two starts this season, pitches for Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Chris Tillman (0-0, 7.00 ERA) takes the mound for Baltimore.