BALTIMORE -- In the days leading up to the Orioles-Rays series, the lingering question was whether the weekend set would be affected by the possibility of Hurricane Earl hitting the Baltimore region.
Instead, it was Rays starter Matt Garza who created a storm prior to Friday's game, telling reporters in St. Petersburg that he wanted to redeem himself for July 20's poor outing at Camden Yards by "shoving it down [the Orioles'] throat."
"He said what he said," Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott said of Garza's comments, "and he backed it up."
But Garza -- who went just 5 2/3 innings -- got plenty of help. The fiery Rays righty benefited from an ineffective start from the Orioles' Kevin Millwood, and an equally unproductive Baltimore offense, both of which contributed heavily in the Orioles' 4-1 loss.
"That was a mental game right there," Garza said of his public vow to pitch inside and keep the Orioles on their toes. "And I won it."
"They were so geared up to hit that fastball, in that they totally forgot the other side of the plate," Garza added. "... That was good for me, because next time through they were like, 'Am I staying out there? Am I coming in?' So they were uncomfortable. Task completed."
And it made the Orioles quest to make Garza eat his words look like Mission Impossible.
"Garza's got good stuff, but there's some things we've got to do better," said manager Buck Showalter, who dropped to 17-13 at the helm. "I know sometimes [the opposing pitcher making teams look listless] is the case, but I think that's an excuse if that was the case."
Millwood's slow tempo -- which included five walks and a hit batter -- did little to help aid the O's offense. If anything, he put an Orioles squad on their heels, handing them an early four-run deficit with a fired-up Garza to face.
"He did a good job for his team," Scott said of Garza, who was angered by what he felt was a premature exit after two outs into the sixth. "But don't let [your words] bite you in the butt."
The O's tagged Garza for a run in the fourth, courtesy of Felix Pie's sacrifice fly. Ty Wigginton belted a one-out double and advanced to third on Garza's wild pitch, before scoring on Pie's ball. Wigginton also saved a run in the fifth, making a diving backhanded grab of Dan Johnson's line drive, before getting up and easily doubling up Matt Joyce at first to end the inning. But Garza didn't let any momentum shift the O's way, pitching around Josh Bell's one-out double to post another zero.
"It was a clean game," said Millwood, who, like most of the Orioles, was well aware of Garza's pregame comments. "[Garza] came out and threw strikes, he mixed his pitches well and kept us off balance. Maybe [saying that] helped him a little bit, I don't know."
Millwood's outing was as anticlimactic as Garza's was amped. He labored through 5 2/3 innings of four-run baseball, receiving a smattering of boos from the home crowd at Camden Yards in his final frame. Fresh off eight scoreless frames against Anaheim -- his first win in more than two months -- Millwood's record continued down an unprecedented path as he picked up a career-high 15th loss.
"I understand I'm going to give up hits, not going to strike out the world," said Millwood. "But to walk five guys is just unacceptable."
Arguably, so was the Orioles' approach. The O's twice stranded a runner on third in the first five innings and let Garza get away with three walks and two wild pitches.
"He got the same number of outs that Garza got," Showalter said of Millwood, who leads the Majors in losses. "I kept hoping we would put something together. The key to the game is we scored one run."
And despite his frustration on the length of his outing, it was Garza who got the last laugh, picking up his 14th win of the season and handing the Orioles loss No. 86. The loss marked the first time the O's have lost three straight under Showalter, and puts them at 1-4 on a homestand that followed their best road trip of the season.
Lefty Mark Hendrickson was one of a few bright spots in the loss, giving the Orioles three scoreless innings of middle relief. Hendrickson entered after Millwood and collected the final out of the sixth before going on to strike out the next four Rays in a row. He held Tampa Bay to just two hits and gave Baltimore a chance to come back. But the Rays' relief corps had other plans, allowing the O's just two hits in the 3 1/3 innings that followed Garza.
"They've got a lot of weapons to make runs matter after the fifth and sixth innings," Showalter said of the Rays, who improved to 83-51. "They pitch the last nine outs real well, and that's why their record is what it is."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.