Dual no-hitter broken in fifth as O's fall
Bass gets no-decision; Cherry gives up go-ahead runs late
BALTIMORE -- Read Orioles manager Dave Trembley's lips. There was no temptation and no defensible reason to leave Brian Bass on the mound in the fifth inning on Monday night, not even with the rookie throwing a no-hitter against the Rays. Trembley had seen Bass fade and walk three straight batters and knew he had to go elsewhere to have any chance to win.
That chance never really materialized in the later innings, but Trembley brushed aside all the questions about his pitcher. Tampa Bay took control and wound up with a 4-2 win over Baltimore, but not because Bass was pulled early.
"In all sincerity," said Trembley, "people that think he should have stayed in because he had a no-hitter and he just walked the ballpark, I don't buy that. ... The guy was done. Look at his legs, look at his face, look at his arm angle. Look at how he was underneath pitches. He's just nibbling and missing and this and that. OK, he was done. Done. Cooked.
"I leave him out there and let him get hurt, what's that? He was at  pitches. What was his ball-strike ratio? It wasn't even 50-50. I'm not trying to protect myself. People that think he should have stayed in, don't buy it."
Trembley backed up his assertions with pure facts, underlining how Bass has done in his prior starts. The right-hander has yet to make it through five innings with the Orioles, a trend attributable to his early-season work as a reliever. Bass also threw four scoreless innings in his last start, but then he gave up five earned runs in the fifth en route to an 8-7 loss.
And so, with recent precedent in mind, Trembley felt more than comfortable pulling Bass in favor of Randor Bierd. Tampa Bay's first hit came on the first batter Bierd faced, resulting in a two-run single for Akinori Iwamura. The Orioles tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, but watched the Rays score twice in the seventh to send Baltimore to its sixth straight loss.
"It's the bottom of the lineup that was up. There were two outs," said Trembley, spelling out the scenario. "He got two outs on two or three pitches. And then walked three in a row. It's not like he was just missing off the plate. He was done. He was out of gas. When [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] went to the mound, Kranitz came back and said, 'He's done. He's lost it.' I am just telling you the facts. I 'm not trying to cover my butt. I'm telling you if you are watching the game you saw it."
You may have seen it, but first you saw a surprisingly well-matched game pop out of an on-paper mismatch. Tampa Bay (93-62) sent David Price -- the top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and one of the very best prospects in baseball -- to the mound on Monday night to make the first big league start of his career against the last-place Orioles.
Price didn't show any nerves in his third big league appearance, casually dominating the Orioles through four innings. The southpaw held the Orioles (67-88) to just two baserunners in the first four innings -- both on walks -- and wasn't challenged until the fifth, by which point the Rays had broken the Baltimore starter's stranglehold on their bats.
Strangely enough, though, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth on an error and two singles. Baltimore went on to score two runs on a single and a sacrifice fly, knotting the game. Price wriggled out of that jam and allowed two more hits in the sixth before he was pulled, netting a no-decision in his first career start.
"He's got great control, good velocity and he's got regular pitches," said Ramon Hernandez. "He just controls those and throws strikes. I think as long as you throw strikes, you're going to be successful no matter where you pitch or what kind of age you have. He's got pretty good velocity and he's going to be pitching for a while if he keeps doing like he did today."
"He's got all the hype behind him, and he's definitely got the stuff with the hype," added third baseman Aubrey Huff, who began his career with Tampa Bay. "He's going to be good. Just another good starter for them."
Bass, who was acquired from Minnesota earlier this month for a player to be named later, was surprisingly up to the challenge. The right-hander retired the first 11 batters before walking Carlos Pena in the fourth inning. Bass escaped that jam and got two quick outs in the fifth, but he also walked three straight batters, prompting his removal from the game.
"He seems more of a two- or three-inning guy because he's got good stuff for two or three innings," said Trembley. "Pounds it down, late movement, boom. And then all of a sudden, the switch goes off."
"My pitch count was getting up in that range where it would probably be close to the end anyway," said Bass. "I'm going out strong for three innings. You get to the fourth and fifth and it's kind of a struggle. There's no excuse for walking three guys."
The Rays ended up taking the lead for good in the seventh, using a Jason Bartlett double off reliever Rocky Cherry. Cherry (0-3) proceeded to walk Pena with two outs and the bases loaded, giving Tampa Bay all it would need.
Baltimore didn't have many good scoring opportunities but ran into a double play in the sixth, miffing Trembley over his players' inability to correctly read the situation. Huff and Oscar Salazar were both running on the pitch, but neither one was able to judge a fly ball well enough to get back to the base, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
"It's three balls, two strikes and you are running and it's a fly ball," said Trembley. "It's not kamikaze baseball. You don't just run 'til you're out. To me, that's a total mental breakdown on his part. Total. To be honest with you, that's embarrassing to me, to the club and the people that are watching the game. I am not burying him, I'm just saying ... that's not right."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.