Markakis homers in loss to Rays
Right fielder hits first of season, but O's drop series finale
ST. PETERSBURG -- Baltimore starter Brian Burres went from hitless to helpless in one inning on Sunday, when Tampa Bay battered him for a six-run fifth-inning rally and a 6-2 win. Burres took a no-hitter into the fifth, but gave up a leadoff walk, four singles and a three-run home run to B.J. Upton before the Orioles went to their bullpen.
"He was throwing the ball really well," said pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "But anytime you have a leadoff walk in this game, sooner or later, it's going to come back and get you. He just didn't make the same pitches and it cost him."
Strangely enough, Burres (1-1) gave off no warning signs before the deluge. The southpaw walked two batters in the first inning but worked out of trouble and held the Rays to just one more baserunner through the fourth. That changed in the fifth, though, when he walked rookie Evan Longoria and allowed Tampa Bay to load the bases on two singles.
Burres managed to get an out on a short fly ball, but second baseman Akinori Iwamura then dumped in a run-scoring single. Left fielder Carl Crawford followed with a two-run hit, and Upton keyed the rout by swatting a three-run shot over the left-field fence, giving Tampa Bay (6-6) a six-run lead. Baltimore (7-5) would never come closer than a four-run deficit.
"I just didn't get my fastball back down," said Burres, who served as a swingman last season. "It stayed up and they kept getting those base hits. I needed to really refocus and get the ball down so I could get a ground ball."
"When you start working behind, which he did in that inning, he started giving up a couple hits," added Kranitz. "We've got to get to the point where you can give up one and then just minimize the damage. The roof caved in on us. He did a nice job with the fly ball, and then when the next hitter got a base hit, we're still OK. But you've got to hold it."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said similar things after the game, and he said he never really considered removing the left-hander before the Upton at-bat. Trembley cited the prior history between the pitcher and hitter at one point, but he also pointed out a psychological aspect of the game and how a quick hook may have affected the outcome.
"If he's going to help us as a starter, he's got to work himself through that," Trembley said of the game situation. "You don't want him to be a guy that as soon as he gets in trouble, you've got to take him out of the game."
Tampa Bay got a strong performance from rookie Jeff Niemann, who escaped a first-inning jam en route to the win in his Major League debut. Baltimore loaded the bases with one out in the first, but Niemann (1-0) induced a pop up and a long flyout to end the threat. The Orioles didn't get to scoring position again until the fifth, and didn't score until Nick Markakis hit a solo homer in the sixth.
Baltimore batted 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position Sunday and has gone 2-for-17 over the past two games.
"It's been a situation where it's been somewhat sporadic," said Trembley. "It either comes all at once or it's been missing, but those guys who have had those opportunities have been up there many times before. Sometimes it works out for you, sometimes it doesn't. You'd like to think that maybe now, going home, we'll get on a roll somewhat."
"Early in the season, it's going to be up and down," said Aubrey Huff, who popped out and struck out with the bases loaded. "You just have to keep staying relaxed and go out there and have fun. Obviously, today wasn't too much fun. But overall, we just have to wipe this series out and go back home in front of the home crowd and have a good homestand."
Markakis, who was hit in the left wrist by a pitch in Saturday night's game, accounted for both of Baltimore's runs. The right fielder drilled a homer to left field in the sixth and walked with the bases loaded in the seventh.
"It was bothering me a little bit," he said of his injured wrist, which required an extra wrapping. "It definitely wasn't comfortable. I just tried to change my grip on the bat a little bit to try to make it as comfortable as possible."
Baltimore went 2-4 on its road trip and has been outscored 27-23 over its past six games. Trembley acknowledged the team's scoring opportunities on Sunday and said that the game easily could've gone in another direction.
"We had chances to get back in it, [but] didn't get the hits," he said. "We've got to learn from it and we've got to get better, because these are the kind of games that you can get back in and you should win them."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.