Big inning does in Baltimore
O's hit season-high six homers, but bullpen struggles
BALTIMORE -- If you thought you saw the worst of the Orioles' bullpen against the Rangers last week, think again.
The Orioles allowed a season-high 11 runs in one inning against the Rays on Tuesday night, an outburst that reversed the scales and allowed Tampa Bay to coast to a 15-8 victory. Baltimore led from the first inning through the seventh, but the Rays got nine hits -- eight for singles -- and three walks off the relief staff in the eighth inning alone.
The Orioles have lost seven straight games, which marks their second-longest losing streak all season. Tuesday's eventful eighth inning took one hour, one minute and 46 seconds to play out and yielded 13 total runs.
"It's embarrassing. It's tiring. It's not good," said second baseman Brian Roberts. "I've been through this too many times. It's not a lack of effort, it's not a lack of trying [and] it's not a lack of preparation. It's just not working out."
Things aren't just malfunctioning -- they're breaking down in highly unique fashion. Baltimore gave up a nine-run and a 10-run rally in its 30-3 loss to Texas last week, and the bullpen has pitched to a 22.29 ERA during its last seven losses.
The 30-run game set an American League record for most runs allowed, and the players said they had deja vu Tuesday night.
"That one got out of hand, obviously -- way out of hand," said Roberts. "But certainly when you're in the eighth, you don't expect to give up 11 runs. You feel pretty good in the eighth up 6-3, so it's a little discouraging. But you've got to keep going and you've got to keep plugging away. We're professionals, and that's what we'll do. I need tonight to go home and get away."
"When that inning started, it just brought that memory back," added shortstop Miguel Tejada, who homered twice in Tuesday's losing effort. "I didn't really think about that game anymore, but when that inning started, I said, 'Please, God, don't start another one. We don't want to be in the same situation as what happened last time.'
"What can I say? Our pitchers are trying to make the best pitches they can. Right now, we're in a tough time."
None of Baltimore's relievers got hit especially hard in the eighth, but that was no consolation after the game. Nine straight Rays reached base at one point -- six on singles and three on walks. Rookie reliever Jim Hoey (1-3) took the loss, but Brian Burres and Chad Bradford also played a role in letting the game get out of hand.
Hoey faced six batters and retired only one of them, giving up three singles and two walks. The right-hander said he didn't know exactly what was going on with his stuff, but he didn't try to make excuses or minimize his role in the blowout.
"I just wasn't confident in myself," Hoey said. "I was a little nervous out there, and right off the bat I gave up a single. After that, I started getting nervous. I couldn't find my slot, couldn't find nothing.
"This doesn't happen to me very often. For something like this to happen, I don't know what to say. I didn't know what to do when I came in here, and I still don't know what to do."
Every Tampa Bay regular that started the inning reached base, with the notable exception of shortstop Josh Wilson, who was removed for pinch-hitter Greg Norton. Norton delivered a two-run single in that spot.
Burres came in after that and couldn't find his best form, walking the first batter he faced and allowing two run-scoring singles. Bradford gave up three run-scoring hits -- including the only double -- but he also was able to get one out. Finally, the Orioles (58-72) went to southpaw Kurt Birkins, who struck out Joel Guzman to end the inning.
"I thought the full moon was last night, not tonight," said manager Dave Trembley. "Every time you lose, it breaks your heart. Every time you don't play up to your expectations, you're letting somebody down or you're not meeting the expectations that you have. I don't think any loss is any better or any easier to take."
The Orioles hadn't hit more than three homers in a game all season, but they doubled that with six. They also hadn't hit back-to-back shots all year, but they did it twice en route to the defeat. Baltimore has hit three or more home runs five times this season, and three of them have come against Tampa Bay (52-80).
Baltimore got a head start toward that number in the first inning, when Nick Markakis crushed a two-run shot to right field to give them a 2-1 lead. Two pitches later, Tejada blasted a homer to left field. Aubrey Huff gave them a two-run lead with a home run in the sixth, and Ramon Hernandez made it 6-3 with his drive in the seventh.
The next two shots -- by Tejada and Kevin Millar -- came as a response to the 11-run inning. Baltimore has been outscored 85-28 in its last seven losses, a run that has the players feeling a little shell-shocked.
"There's still  games left, and none of us are cashing them in," said Roberts, one of the longest-serving members of the team. "We're not going to go 0-30, but it gets harder and harder to do this every night if this is the way it's going to go. You've got to find some way to turn it around. You've got find some way to pick yourself up and move on."
"As players," Tejada said, "it's not frustrating for us because tomorrow we're going to be out there again trying to win a game. I really feel sorry for the fans. ... They come every day to see our team winning, and we're not winning. I don't really feel bad because we gave up so many runs or lost the game -- I feel bad because of the fans.
"They've really been hit hard, because they want to see our team do much better."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.