BALTIMORE — If Brian Matusz had won the matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays’ James Loney in the sixth inning, the rest of the Baltimore Orioles’ game Sunday afternoon could have looked a lot different.
But Loney hit a double, and Orioles Manager Buck Showalter decided to cut his losses with the left-hander instead of inserting right-hander Ryan Webb and further depleting a bullpen worn thin by Friday’s doubleheader and a short outing Sunday by starter Miguel Gonzalez.
Matusz, who was brought in to face the left-handed Loney with two outs in the sixth, went on to give up another double and a two-run home run as part of a decisive seven-run inning, and the Orioles set a new season-high in runs allowed in a 12-7 loss to the Rays at Camden Yards.
Matusz and right-hander Evan Meek combined to give up nine runs and 10 hits in 3 1 / 3 innings Sunday, halting a stretch of 30 innings since June 21 in which Orioles relievers had allowed only one earned run.
“We ran out of bullets,” Showalter said. “You can’t keep running the same [relievers] out there night after night, and our starters know that, and they take it very personal.”
The Orioles have won just two of their last seven home series, but despite losing three out of four games over the weekend to the worst team in the American League, they remain just 1 1 / 2 games behind the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays.
But the Orioles didn’t look like contenders Sunday.
In the sixth inning, following a solo home run by No. 9 hitter Kevin Kiermaier off of Meek to tie the game, Matt Joyce’s two-out single snapped Tampa Bay’s 0-for-17 stretch with runners in scoring position and gave the Rays a 5-4 lead.
And then the floodgates opened.
Matusz allowed consecutive RBI doubles to Loney and designated hitter Brandon Guyer before surrendering a two-run homer to Logan Forsythe.
By the time Kiermaier lined to right field for the final out in the sixth, the Rays had scored seven runs in an inning for the first time this season. Tampa Bay’s seven hits in the inning were also a high mark this year.
Joyce added a two-run home run in the seventh — his second of the game and career-high fifth hit of the afternoon — to make Sunday the Orioles’ worst pitching performance of the year. The Rays entered the game hitting just .231 with runners in scoring position, but they went 5-for-13 in those situations Sunday.
“That’s an aberration for our bullpen,” said Orioles catcher Nick Hundley, who was acquired in a trade last month. “They’ve been so solid since I’ve been over here. They’ve thrown the ball great.”