The Orioles trailed after just one pitch. They were down by five runs before an Orioles hitter picked up a bat.
The club’s string of seven straight quality starts ended abruptly at Camden Yards. Gonzalez imploded in the first inning as the Rays sent nine batters to the plate — five of them scoring — in the Orioles’ eventual 10-1 loss in front of an announced crowd of 19,582.
The Rays didn’t pound Gonzalez early — the 28-year-old rookie walked one, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch in the first inning — but the tone-setter was Desmond Jennings’s solo homer on Gonzalez’s first delivery of the game, a 90-mph fastball over the center of the plate that Jennings deposited into the left field stands.
Gonzalez, who also allowed a leadoff homer to Detroit’s Austin Jackson in his first home start on July 15, became the first major league pitcher to yield leadoff homers in his first two home starts in nearly nine years, since Colorado’s Chin-Hui Tsao on July 25 and Aug. 6, 2003.
With Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera also hitting a home run in the opening frame against Gonzalez on Friday, the right-hander has given up a first-inning homer in each of his last three starts. As a team, the Orioles have also allowed 19 first-inning runs in their past 13 games.
Since Gonzalez’s sparkling first major league start on July 6, when he held the Angels to one run on three hits over seven innings in Anaheim, Gonzalez has pitched to a 7.20 ERA in his three starts, allowing 20 hits and 12 earned runs over 15 innings.
The Orioles have scored just one run in each of their last three games.
They were held to just seven hits by Rays left-hander David Price, who won his major-league leading 14th game, striking out 10 and walking none.