Tough luck for Uehara in loss to Rays
O's right-hander strikes out eight over six-plus innings
ST. PETERSBURG -- All strikes, no solace.
Baltimore starter Koji Uehara pitched perhaps the best game of his Major League career on Tuesday, a gem that isn't quite reflected by the corresponding box score. Uehara threw 72 strikes and just 20 balls against the Rays, but his defense made three errors and couldn't pick him up in a 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Uehara, who has been solid through his first month in the Majors, was even better Tuesday. The right-hander retired 14 straight batters at one point, including a fourth inning sequence in which he struck out the side on just 11 pitches. Three of his six runs were unearned, but Uehara still came out on the losing end.
"Koji's gotten better each time out," said manager Dave Trembley. "Today, he made it look real easy. I looked up at the board and he had 50-something pitches and seven balls. The guy was tremendous. I don't think he could do any more than he did. Picked a guy off, fields his position. It's just too bad we didn't get any more runs for him."
The Orioles (10-17) got all of their offense on a pair of home runs -- a two-run job by second baseman Brian Roberts in the third inning and a solo shot from catcher Gregg Zaun in the fifth. Uehara (2-3) had allowed just one hit to that point, and he'd rung up six strikeouts against Tampa Bay's potent offense.
But the game turned from there, with the Rays (12-16) scoring two error-related runs in the sixth and coming back for more in the seventh. Uehara picked a runner off second base in that latter rally, but he couldn't stop the Rays from going ahead for good on a two-out double to left field by leadoff hitter B.J. Upton.
"I don't think it has much to do with the defense. It's about my pitching," said Uehara via interpreter Jiwon Bang. "Until the middle of the game, it was good. After I allowed the runners on base, then I got a little out of rhythm."
"It's a bad feeling for a guy to throw the ball that well and come out on the wrong end," added Roberts. "I didn't think they were going to get a hit for a while, but you're going to get into trouble here and there and throughout the course of the game. They are too good offensively not to battle you and at least get in position to score."
Baltimore's defensive off-day started early, gifting the game's first run to Tampa Bay. Carl Crawford -- who had stolen six bases on Sunday -- singled and stole in the first inning. Zaun threw wildly on the play, allowing Crawford to advance, and center fielder Adam Jones pushed him home with another errant throw.
Crawford has stolen bases in eight straight games and has 19 thefts without being caught.
"Crawford will do that to you," said Trembley of his team's first gaffe. "He'll put a lot of pressure on you. We saw what he did against Boston, stealing all those bases. He probably makes you force some things."
The sixth-inning rally also started on a miscue, this one courtesy of third baseman Melvin Mora. Gabe Kapler hit a ball hard, and Mora wasn't able to stop it from going through his legs. Dioner Navarro doubled Kapler over to third and, after two quick outs, Evan Longoria hit a two-run bloop double up the right-field line.
That ball fell between three converging Orioles to tie the game and set the stage for the seventh. Roberts dubbed the patch of turf where the ball fell "The Bermuda Triangle," and Trembley said it was the difference in the game.
"The one that really hurt was Longoria's ball that just fell inside the chalk-line down the right-field line," he said. "That was a great pitch. If it goes foul, it's a different ballgame. ... It found a slot."
But it didn't go foul, and Tampa Bay followed up with some more offense in the seventh. The first two batters got hits in that rally, and Uehara (2-3) responded by coaxing a popup and picking Jason Bartlett off second base. Navarro singled to keep the Rays alive, and Upton doubled to chase Uehara from the game.
Tampa Bay scored two more runs on a two-out hit by Longoria to provide the final margin. And despite the loss, Trembley couldn't stop talking about how well his starter pitched against Tampa Bay.
"I thought he dominated the game with strikes," Trembley said. "We had to work real hard for our runs and they found some spots. They hit a ground ball that gave them two runs and a couple of other balls just found holes for them."
Rays starter Matt Garza had another typically dominant game against the Orioles. The right-hander worked into the ninth inning and allowed just two earned runs, ceding an easy save to Troy Percival. With the win, Garza (3-2) improved to 6-0 with a sterling 2.28 career ERA against Baltimore.
"We got on the board early, didn't add on," said Trembley, summarizing his day. "He located, his breaking ball was good. He had movement away and in. He doesn't give you a whole lot to hit. He wasn't as overpowering as I thought, but his command certainly was better than I've seen. His command was very good."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.