BALTIMORE — The answer, at least at this point, is not taking Andy Sonnanstine out of the rotation. Instead, manager Joe Maddon said, it's a matter of figuring out what he's doing wrong.
Sonnanstine followed up his encouraging and confidence-building last start with a discouraging and question-raising performance Tuesday, turning what looked like a good night for the Rays into another bad one, a 7-5 loss to the last-place, for the moment, Orioles.
After the Rays battered former teammate Mark Hendrickson for five runs in the top of the second, with Carl Crawford taking over the franchise RBI record and Evan Longoria knocking in his major-league-leading 45th run, Sonnanstine gave it all back, allowing five in a brutal bottom.
He ended up lasting just two-plus innings, in the shortest of his 61 major-league starts, his record dropping to 1-4 and his ERA soaring to 7.27.
But Maddon said he was not ready to question whether Sonnanstine, who won 13 games last season, should continue to make more starts.
"It's too early," Maddon said. "He just pitched a great game (last time out in New York). He had a tough night tonight, there's no question about that. But I look at health and I look at stuff, and he looked pretty normal. There's something there we've got to fix on a more consistent basis.
"It was just a bad night for him. He'll be the first one to tell you, I'm sure."
"Probably the most frustrating start I've ever had," Sonnanstine said.
But after giving up a career-high-matching seven runs for the second time in his past four starts, and after allowing nine of the 15 batters he faced to get hits (including two homers by Adam Jones and two doubles) plus walking another, he said this:
"Just a lot of bad luck, I think."
"I felt good physically. I felt my pitches were good. It just wasn't my night."
Maddon said Sonnanstine's velocity was normal, but his location wasn't, as too many pitches appeared to be over the middle of the plate. "They were just squaring it up," he said. "It just looks like he made some bad pitches."
He tends to, for whatever reason, when facing the Orioles, against whom he is now 2-5, 8.55.
And there could be a carryover as the Rays were forced to use four relievers — though in limited roles — before sending No. 5 starter Jeff Niemann out tonight.
Actually, the Orioles have been trouble for all the Rays this season, winning four of the six games.
It started out looking like it would be different as the Rays (15-19) sent nine men to the plate in a second inning that was noteworthy and historic. But that was about the highlight as they didn't score against a parade of Baltimore relievers, even though they had a man on second in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
"You want to win those games when you jump out so far, but tonight we gave it up,'' Crawford said.
In the second, rightfielder Gabe Kapler knocked in his first run of the season with a sac fly after going 45 at-bats without one. Catcher Dioner Navarro knocked in a run, too, just his fifth of the season and his fourth hit in 32 at-bats with runners in scoring position. His 3-for-31 performance was the worst of any AL regular.
Crawford later laced a two-run double and literally passed Aubrey Huff — who was playing first for the Orioles — to take over the top spot on the Rays' all-time RBI chart at 451.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.