The O’s mo­men­tum evap­o­rates quickly

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES - By Peter Schmuck peter.schmuck@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Sch­muck­S­top

Man­ager Buck Showalter fol­lows up just about ev­ery strong run by the Ori­oles with the warn­ing that “mo­men­tum is only as good as your next start­ing pitcher,” but he would rather not be proved right so eas­ily.

TheOri­oles ap­peared to be ready to take on the world af­ter com­ing back from one of their best road trips in re­cent mem­ory, but they hit one of the soft spots in their start­ing ro­ta­tion and squan­dered all that pos­i­tive en­ergy faster than you can say “Yo­vani Gal­lardo” in a 7-6 loss to the last-place Tampa Bay Rays be­fore an an­nounced 19,233 at Cam­den Yards.

The­last thing just about any­body at Ori­ole Park wanted to see Thurs­day night was Gal­lardo walk­ing the first two bat­ters of the game and then serv­ing up a first-pitch three-run home run to Rays third base­man Evan Lon­go­ria, but that’s how quickly a team can go from look­ing invincible to look­ing in­com­pre­hen­si­ble.

But that wasn’t the half of it. The Ori­oles erased that ugly num­ber with four runs in the bot­tom of the first in­ning, only to watch their vet­eran right-han­der give up three hits in the sec­ond in­ning and two dou­bles in the third to re-es­tab­lish a three-run Tampa Bay lead. So let’s re­view: Three-run first in­ning. No shut­down sec­ond in­ning. Six runs in 31⁄ in­nings. And Showalter in­di­cated that Wade Mi­ley would prob­a­bly get the start Sun­day. Manny Machado shows his dis­ap­point­ment af­ter lin­ing out to left in the third in­ning.

Mo­men­tum is a frag­ile, frag­ile thing when your start­ing ro­ta­tion has such a soft un­der­belly. All the lead­ing indi­ca­tors: Past per­for­mance ob­vi­ously doesn’t mean a whole lot ei­ther. The Ori­oles came into the game un­de­feated against the Rays in their first six games at Cam­den Yards and — of course — have one of the best home records in all of base­ball. They still have an 11-5 record in the sea­son se­ries against the Rays, but would rather not have things start to even out dur­ing this fi­nal home­s­tand. Right back at ya: Ap­par­ently, Showalter’s mo­men­tumthe­ory also can ap­ply to the op­pos­ing pitcher. Left-han­der Blake Snell al­lowed first-in­ning sin­gles to Adam Jones and Manny Machado, and loaded the bases with an eight-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo. The Ori­oles flirted with a score­less in­ning when Chris Davis looked at a called third strike, but Matt Wi­eters dunked a two-run sin­gle to left and red-hot J.J. Hardy banged a dou­ble off the cen­ter-field fence for two more runs. Just like that, the Ori­oles went from three runs down to a run up in a first in­ning that lasted more than a half-hour. Op­por­tu­nity knocks again and again: If only the Ori­oles could have an­swered in the mid­dle in­nings, they wouldn’t have lost a game to the Bos­ton Red Sox in the Amer­i­can League East. They had run­ners at first and third with one out in the fourth be­fore Nolan Reimold grounded into a dou­ble play. They also had run­ners at sec­ond and third with no out in front of the heart of the lineup, but Machado struck out on three pitches, Trumbo popped out and Davis nubbed a ball back to the pitcher. The Ori­oles fi­nally made good on a sec­ond-and-third no-out sit­u­a­tion in the eighth to make it a one-run game.

But they put run­ners on the cor­ners with one out in the ninth, and pro­ceeded to leave the ty­ing run on third when Trumbo and Davis struck out to end the game. The scoreboard watch: It was ap­par­ent from the start that the Ori­oles would have a good chance to move up in the stand­ings Thurs­day, be­cause Yan­kees right-han­der Masahiro Tanaka was pitch­ing a gem in Bos­ton and the Yan­kees quickly built an early 5-1 lead. But the Red Sox came back for a 7-5 win, moving two games ahead of the Ori­oles in the AL East. The best thing about Thurs­day night was that the wild-card-hope­ful Tigers had al­ready lost and the only teams with a chance to gain on the Ori­oles set­tled for a half-game be­cause they didn’t play.

PA­TRICK SMITH/GETTY IM­AGES

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