Coming off a series in which they held their own against the best team in the National League, the Orioles largely did the same in their opener with the American League’s top club.
But they’ve found themselves as losers of three of those four games after falling to the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-0, to begin a three-game set between teams who entered with the best records in the AL.
Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan, who was born in Baltimore, held his favorite boyhood team scoreless over six innings, and Tampa Bay’s dominant bullpen finished the shutout. The defeat marked the Orioles’ first in a series opener after they won their first 11.
They pushed it to that mark with Friday’s first game against the NL-best Atlanta Braves, but since, Baltimore’s hitters have gone 2-for-29 with runners in scoring position as the Orioles have dropped three straight by a combined five runs.
“That says a lot for a young team to show up to three-game series every single time and be 1-0 after the first game,” said Orioles starter Kyle Gibson, one of a handful of veterans Baltimore added to its youthful core this winter. “We know we’ve been playing really good baseball. This isn’t a three-game losing streak where we’ve shot ourselves in the foot and we haven’t played well and we’ve given away two of the three games or all three. We’ve been in all three of them, and we’ve been one swing away from winning each game.
“So, we feel really good about where we’re at. We’re playing really good baseball and if we keep doing this over the long stretch, we’re going to be right where we want to be at the end.”
Star catcher Adley Rutschman had Monday’s final opportunity with the Orioles (22-13) threatening, eliciting chants of “Ad-ley” from an announced crowd of 12,669 as he stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs in the seventh. But he struck out for a third time to leave two in scoring position and stretch his personal hitless spell to 18 at-bats. He’s walked five times during that stretch, entering Monday as the AL leader in free passes.
“It’s 18 at-bats out of 600-plus at-bats he’s gonna have,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Everybody’s gonna have times where they go a few games without getting hits. That’s just the way it is.”
The Orioles threatened against McClanahan in each of his even innings but made nothing of those opportunities. Two two-out walks in the second preceded a flyout. Anthony Santander walked to open the fourth, and Jorge Mateo followed with a bunt single that temporarily hobbled McClanahan when he slipped trying to field it, but after James McCann flied out, Rays shortstop Wander Franco caught a bloop from Adam Frazier and doubled Santander off second base. Santander doubled off the left field wall with one out of the sixth — a drive that would have been a home run in the majors’ 29 other parks, according to Major League Baseball tracking — but didn’t make it home.
“We put a couple of rallies together; we just didn’t get a big hit, kind of like yesterday, honestly,” Hyde said. “When you’re facing somebody like that — I thought we grinded. We just had a tough time against him.”
In the bottom of the ninth, infielder Ramón Urías suffered a left hamstring strain on a two-out single, with Kyle Stowers pinch-running for him. Hyde said Urías will be evaluated again Tuesday. Should Urías require an injured list stint, prospect Joey Ortiz, who impressed during a three-game call-up in Detroit, would be a logical fill-in; Jordan Westburg, the club’s No. 5 prospect according to Baseball America, would need to be added to the 40-man roster to be brought up for his debut.
The Rays (29-7) also went without a hit in scoring opportunities. They put their first two hitters on against Gibson, but he stranded both. Josh Lowe’s home run in the second provided the game’s first run as a sinker Gibson hoped to put down and away ended up down the middle, but Gibson largely cruised from there, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth. A leadoff single in the seventh from Luke Raley ended Gibson’s night, with the veteran having provided his fourth of Baltimore’s eight quality starts.
Bryan Baker issued two walks behind him, with Tampa Bay doubling its lead on Franco’s sacrifice fly. Raley hit a solo shot off Keegan Akin in the ninth.
“They make you work,” Gibson said. “They don’t take ABs off. And good teams that are filled with good hitters that don’t take at-bats off, no matter how the game score is, they’re challenging. It’s a mental game for as long as you’re out there. It’s a lot of fun. Those are the challenging times where you enjoy being out there, and that’s what makes this game beautiful: going out there and competing against the best and seeing where you match up.”
Despite recent results, Gibson believes the Orioles match up well.
“This team,” he said, “knows how to win.”
Around the horn
- Injured right-handed relievers Dillon Tate (right elbow flexor strain) and Mychal Givens (left knee inflammation) will both make their next rehabilitation outings Wednesday, with Tate pitching for Triple-A Norfolk in his sixth appearance and Givens taking the mound with Double-A Bowie for the fourth time. Hyde said the number of appearances each needs to join the Orioles’ bullpen remains unclear, but they will need more outings after Wednesday. In the Orioles’ clubhouse Monday, Givens said multiple times he’s going in “the right direction.”
- Center fielder Cedric Mullins was out of the lineup for only the third time this season, appearing in each of Baltimore’s first 34 games and entering Monday playing all but 17 1/3 of the Orioles’ 304 defensive innings this year. Mullins struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. “He played a 10-day road trip and played in three of the biggest outfields in the game and played his heart out in Atlanta the last three days, an 11:30 [a.m.] game after a 7:15 [p.m.] Fox game, and so just giving him a breather,” Hyde said.
- Right-handed reliever Joey Krehbiel cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Norfolk, the Orioles said. Krehbiel was designated for assignment last week when the Orioles traded for catcher Luis Torrens from the Chicago Cubs.
Rays at Orioles
Tuesday, 6:35 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM