Rays rout Orioles behind Shields' gem
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has been complaining lately about his team getting too many homers, too many strikeouts and not enough solid hits with runners in scoring position.
In an 11-3 rout of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Rays hit four home runs and went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position. As an added bonus, Tampa Bay got a fine pitching performance from James Shields.
But the Rays struck out 11 times. So, even after Tampa Bay compiled a season-high 17 hits, Maddon wasn't satisfied.
"We have to do a little bit better job of situational hitting, driving runners in from third with less than two outs," Maddon said. "That happens more through line drives and ground balls than fly balls."
Despite Maddon's nitpicking, the defending AL champions were content to end their first road trip with a 3-3 record, especially because Sunday's win enabled Tampa Bay to avoid a three-game sweep. The Rays open the home portion of their schedule Monday night against the New York Yankees.
"I think everybody did a good job of rebounding from the last couple of days. We feel pretty comfortable," said Ben Zobrist, who hit a three-run homer. "Going into our home opener it would have been tough to lose three straight here."
Evan Longoria hit his major league-leading fifth home run, and Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena also connected for the Rays. All four homers came off Brian Bass, who allowed seven runs in 3 1-3 innings of relief.
Longoria went 3-for-5 to up his batting average to .481. He has five straight multihit games and at least one RBI in five of his six starts.
Shields (1-1) allowed three hits in seven innings, struck out three and walked one. It was a solid bounce-back performance for the right-hander, who gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings in Tampa Bay's season-opening 5-3 loss to Boston.
"I really didn't do too much different today," Shields said. "I got here a little bit earlier, that's about it."
Dan Wheeler allowed one hit in the eighth before Grant Balfour was tagged for three runs in the ninth.
Luke Scott and Felix Pie had the lone RBIs for the Orioles, who take to the road after going 4-2 against the Yankees and Rays. Baltimore's two defeats are by a combined 22-5 score.
"I think you've got to just accept today for what it was and move on," manager Dave Trembley said.
Added to the 25-man roster before the game, Adam Eaton (0-1) allowed four runs and eight hits over four innings in his debut with Baltimore. Ten of the 21 batters he faced reached base, two on walks, and he ended up throwing 100 pitches.
"I wasn't laboring. Laboring is when you're kind of struggling with stuff," he said. "For the most part, I had everything going."
The current group of Rays were a collective 0-for-24 lifetime against Eaton coming in, but Akinori Iwamura gave an indication of things to come by opening the game with the first of his three hits. Tampa Bay got runners on second and third before Eaton escaped, but it took him 27 pitches.
"Obviously, I battled my way through a zero and thought, 'Geez, we've got to get that pitch count down,"' he said.
The right-hander was not as fortunate in the second inning. The Rays loaded the bases with one out before Eaton struck out Iwamura, but Carl Crawford followed with a triple and scored on a double by Longoria.
"Carl got a big hit. We need more of that," Maddon said.
Eaton averted another jam in the fourth when Adam Jones threw out Gabe Gross at home after fielding a single to center by Crawford. Gross got a late start and couldn't get around catcher Chad Moeller, who blocked the plate. Moeller initially missed the tag, but applied it to Gross before he could scramble back to home.
Tampa Bay pulled away with a four-run fifth against Bass, the key blow by Zobrist.
Bartlett homered in the seventh, his third hit of the game, and Longoria and Pena connected in succession in the eighth.
Bass tied an Orioles single-game record for homers allowed by a reliever. ... Shields is 5-1 with a 2.77 ERA lifetime against Baltimore. ... Tampa Bay optioned outfielder Matt Joyce to Triple-A Durham to make room for CF B.J. Upton, who will come off the disabled list Monday.