BALTIMORE — After flexing their muscles, leading the majors in runs, homers and most other offensive categories since the start of the season, the Rays’ offense went quiet this week as they lost two of three games to the Orioles.
Wednesday’s 2-1 loss wasn’t much different than Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat, as the Rays had limited opportunities to score and didn’t take advantage, with the Orioles pitchers obviously deserving some of the credit.
“Look, (we’re) very pleased with what we’re doing offensively,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re going to have some quiet nights. They’ve just kind of come here back-to-back, but would expect that we’ll bounce right back.”
The problem has been the Rays’ inability to get a big hit when they need it.
They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left six on Wednesday. That was after going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and leaving nine on Tuesday. Which followed going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and leaving seven on in Monday’s 3-0 win, when they scored on two home runs and a sacrifice fly.
So, was the 1-for-20 showing and 22 runners left on base just a couple of “part-of-the-game” moments during an otherwise sizzling season, as Harold Ramirez said several times, or the the start of a concerning cooling-off as the Rays next head to Yankee Stadium.
“No one on this ballclub should feel bad because we couldn’t get key hits (Tuesday or Wednesday),” catcher Christian Bethancourt said. “We’ve still got a long season to go. We’re fine. We know what’s going on. The last two games, we couldn’t get it done with runners on base. Hopefully, it’s better (Thursday).”
The Rays dropped to 29-9 in losing back-to-back games (and a series) for just the third time this season — to the Blue Jays, Astros and now Orioles.
Wednesday was a frustrating loss in another way, as pitcher Yonny Chirinos, who took over in the third inning following opener Jalen Beeks, seemed to lose command in a messy sixth that led to the two Baltimore runs.
Adley Rutschman led off with a single, and Anthony Santander followed with a double. Ryan Mountcastle drew a walk — with ball four coming on a pitch-clock violation by Chirinos — to load the bases with no outs.
A sharp grounder by Adam Frazier to second baseman Brandon Lowe got one run home. The Rays only got one out on the play, as Mountcastle went hard into second and shortstop Wander Franco couldn’t complete the double play. A hard single to left by Austin Hays made it 2-0, but Chirinos was able to keep it there.
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“I think he kind of lost it for a little bit,” Bethancourt said. “He couldn’t find the strike zone. The slider was backing up. It sucks that they got bases loaded, no outs, and he held them enough. They just scored two runs instead of a big inning. That was good from him to see him come back the way he did.”
Chirinos, who worked five innings and walked a career-high-matching four for the second straight outing, said there wasn’t much he could do.
“Things usually go well,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Sometimes it’s just a part of the game. You try to attack the hitters, and sometimes the results just don’t turn out the way you want them to turn out.”
The problem was that the way the Rays were going, the 2-0 deficit loomed large.
They had two on in the first with one out when starter Dean Kremer walked Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe, but Ramirez and Luke Raley flied out. They had two on in the fourth with one out when Ramirez and Raley rapped back-to-back singles, but Isaac Paredes grounded into a double play. They had two on in the fifth when Josh Lowe and Bethancourt led off with singles, but Jose Siri and Yandy Diaz struck out, and Franco lined out.
They had one more chance in the eighth but got just the one run. Diaz laced a one-out double off Austin Voth, and Franco singled him in for their only hit of the series with a runner in scoring position. The Orioles brought in lefty Danny Coulombe, and he ended the rally by striking out two of the Rays’ top right-handers in Randy Arozarena, who pinch hit after having most of the day off, and Ramirez.
“Sometimes we hit, sometimes not,” Ramirez said. “That’s part of the game.”
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