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.
“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