BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles opened yet another critical stretch of their schedule at Camden Yards against a Tampa Bay Rays team nipping at their heels in the constant standings shuffle that is the American League East.
Against the pitching-laden Rays, who opened Tuesday night just two games behind the Orioles for second place in the division, the O’s knew that runs would be at a premium during this series. But Baltimore returned from their eight-game Midwest trip resonating positive vibes from winning five of their last six.
Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen made few mistakes, but Tampa Bay took advantage of his flaws, sending the O’s to their second straight loss, 3-1, in front of an announced crowd of 17,592.
Chen deserved a better fate, and he was essentially beaten by one pitch, a 91-mph fastball that light-hitting No. 9 batter Brooks Conrad took into the left field seats in the fifth inning for a two-run homer.
Meanwhile, the Orioles (51-46) managed just three hits, just one after Adam Jones’s solo homer gave them a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
The Orioles still brought the winning run to the plate twice in the ninth inning after Rays closer Fernando Rodney issued back-to-back one-out walks. But Rodney battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out Jones swinging on the last of three straight change-ups, then struck out Matt Wieters on a 2-2 change-up.
Chen pitched well enough to win. He gave the Orioles their seventh straight quality start, the first time the O’s had seven or more consecutive quality starts since the club had nine straight from Sept. 29, 2010 to April 4, 2011.