The Orioles had their ace on the mound and a two-run lead against the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.
That seemingly ideal situation was thrown awry by Evan Longoria.
Longoria homered, tripled and scored three runs as the Rays blunted Baltimore’s playoff push with a 5-2 victory Saturday night.
The loss dropped Baltimore three games behind first-place Boston in the AL East and a half-game in back of Toronto for the top AL wild-card slot, pending the Blue Jays’ late game at the Los Angeles Angels.
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“They understand the atmosphere that they’re playing in,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Every game is important, just like they were in April. We’ve got a chance, and tonight won’t change that.”
The Orioles have lost two of three to the Rays in a series that ends Sunday.
“You say what you want about the Rays and the standings, but they’ve got a formidable major league team over there,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “They’re not just laying down, dying, quitting and just letting us win.”
Chris Tillman (16-6) had a one-hitter and a 2-1 lead after five innings, but he failed to get out of the sixth.
Longoria led off the inning by hitting a long fly ball outside the left-field foul pole. He sent the next pitch over the center-field wall – his eighth career homer off Tillman in 63 at-bats.
“It was pretty impressive,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “You don’t see many guys go homer foul and then straighten it out a little more.”
Brad Miller followed with an infield hit and scored on a two-out double by Richie Shaffer.
Tampa Bay added two unearned runs in the eighth when Mikie Mahtook hit a bases-loaded single after an error by first baseman Chris Davis.
Longoria has homered in each of the three games and has a career-high 35 for the season.
“Just taking advantage of those pitches I should hit,” he said. “I’d love to keep it going.”
Matt Andriese (8-7) allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings to win his second straight start after losing seven decisions in a row. Alex Colome worked the ninth for his 34th save in 36 chances.
The Orioles played a second straight game without major league home run leader Mark Trumbo, who has back spasms.
Baltimore got a first-inning run when Jones doubled and scored on a fly ball by Manny Machado.
A sacrifice fly by Hyun Soo Kim made it 2-0 in the third. Tampa Bay broke through in the fourth when Longoria tripled – the Rays’ first hit – and scored on a grounder by Miller.
Notes: 1B Nick Franklin missed a second straight game with a hamstring strain and will likely be re-examined Monday after the team travels home.
Rays: Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.81 ERA) pitches the series finale for the Rays. He’s 6-1 since the All-Star break and has 15 starts overall in which he received no decision.
Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.80) starts for Baltimore. He’s 1-5 with an 8.41 ERA in eight starts since coming to the Orioles just before the non-waiver trade deadline.
Who: Tampa Bay (64-84) at Baltimore (81-67)
When: Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
Where: Camden Yards, Baltimore
Probable pitchers: Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.81) vs. Wade Miley (8-13, 5.80)
Radio: 1250 AM