BALTIMORE (AP) — The Rays are beginning to feel the burden of trying to win in the AL East without an offense equal to that of the other contenders in the division.
Tampa Bay’s 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 14 innings Thursday dropped the third-place Rays four games off the pace with 19 to play.
Manny Machado blooped a two-out RBI single that eluded the glove of left fielder Matt Joyce’s desperate drive to end a marathon in which the Rays used a team-record 26 players.
In being swept by the AL East-leading Orioles, Tampa Bay scored only two runs in each of three games and lost the last two by one run.
Baltimore is now 27-7 in one-run games, and the Rays are 20-26 after dropping 13 of their last 16 one-run decisions.
Asked the difference in the two teams, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon replied, “The difference is just like the end of that game; they got a hit and we didn’t. We have been unable to get a hit in that part of the game. Tie games, we’ve had opportunities and we’re just unable. For the most part our bullpen has been outstanding. It’s our inability to get that hit.”
The Rays stranded 10 and went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s just the same old story: We can’t score enough runs,” Maddon said.
Tampa Bay can only hope to rectify the situation at Yankee Stadium in a three-game series that begins Friday night.
“Going to New York, we’ll have another huge series for us,” Joyce said. “We have to rebound quick. I think we’ll be all right. It just wasn’t the way we wanted things to go this series. If we had one more hit or one more ball goes a couple of inches either way for us, we come away with two wins.”
With their 81st victory — and 13th in a row in extra innings — the Orioles formally ended a franchise-record run of 14 consecutive losing seasons. Baltimore (81-62) started the day in a first-place tie with the Yankees, who faced Boston on Thursday night.
Sixteen pitchers took part in the game, which lasted 5 hours, 14 minutes. Baltimore’s bullpen kept the Rays scoreless on four hits over the final 6 2-3 innings.
After the Orioles squandered a bases-loaded, no-out threat in the 13th, Chris Archer (0-3) got the first two outs in the 14th before Adam Jones walked and Endy Chavez singled. Machado followed with a soft liner toward the line that Joyce trapped.
Machado, a 20-year-old rookie, scored the game-winning run Wednesday night.
“I’m having a blast,” Machado said. “This team is great to be around. It’s a great group of guys. We’re all excited. We’re all having one goal, which is make the playoffs.”
Randy Wolf (2-0) earned the win by striking out Joyce with two on in the top of the 14th.
The Orioles have won 14 of 19 overall and are 26-11 since Aug. 3. Baltimore’s sixth three-game sweep of the season completed a 5-2 homestand against the Yankees and Tampa Bay.
Although the Orioles blew a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning, they improved to 64-0 when leading after the seventh.
Baltimore loaded the bases with no outs in the 13th but could not score after the Rays employed five infielders in hopes of cutting off the potential winning run at the plate. Robert Andino hit into a force at home, pinch-hitter Matt Wieters struck out and Nate McLouth struck out.
Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen gave up two runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings. Working with a 2-1 lead in the eighth, Chen walked leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings, who advanced on a passed ball and a stolen base before scoring on a slow roller to third by Ben Zobrist for a hit.
In the bottom half, the Orioles got runners on the corners with one out before Joel Peralta struck out Machado and Mark Reynolds.
Limited to four hits through the first six innings, Baltimore went ahead with a two-run seventh. After Rays reliever Wade Davis mishandled a bunt by Machado, Andino walked and seldom-used backup catcher Taylor Teagarden hit a two-run double into the gap in right-center.
Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson allowed four hits and three walks in five-plus innings. He was pulled after J.J. Hardy led off the sixth with a single.
Jake McGee, who struck out all four batters he faced on Wednesday night, came in and struck out pinch-hitter Lew Ford, Jones and Chris Davis. It was McGee’s 18th consecutive scoreless appearance since July 18.
To that point, the game’s only run came in the fourth inning. Singles by Zobrist and Evan Longoria put runners at the corners before Jeff Keppinger hit a sinking liner to center. Jones made a fine diving catch, and Zobrist tagged up from third and scored.
NOTES: Jennings returned to the Tampa Bay lineup after missing four games with back tightness. … Tampa Bay 2B Ryan Roberts fouled a ball off his left ankle in the 11th and left the game. X-rays were negative. … David Price (17-5, 2.54 ERA) will start Friday night for Tampa Bay against CC Sabathia (13-5, 3.56). … Baltimore has held the Rays to 10 runs in the last seven games between the teams. … Right-handed batters are 9 for 93 (.097) against McGee. … TB’s B.J. Upton went 0 for 6 and was 1 for 14 in the series.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.