The Orioles finished the night with 10 hits against ace David Price, yet once again struggled mightily when trying to execute with runners in scoring position. It's been a problem that has plagued the O's going back to last year's playoff series against the New York Yankees.
There has simply been entirely too many times this year when the Orioles have a runner on third base with less than two outs and fail to score. It happened a couple of times last night and was ultimately the reason they came up just short.
It also didn't help that Matt Wieters nearly hit a three-run home run that fell just a couple inches short of clearing the fence to straight away center field. At the same time, the ball was nearly caught by Desmond Jennings, which would have negated the one run that did cross the plate in the inning.
Chris Tillman actually pitched pretty well despite giving up four runs and taking the loss. He made a mistake to Matt Joyce that ended up barely clearing the right field wall, and that two-run home run proved to be the difference in the game.
The bullpen was also solid, though Francisco Rodriguez was much more lucky than good. He loaded the bases in the eighth inning without recording an out before a line drive was turned into a double play. Brian Matusz recorded the final out of the inning to let Rodriguez off the hook.
The Orioles send two good pitchers to the mound over the final two games of the series, but the Rays still have the slight starting pitching advantage in each contest. Alex Cobb has a lot of success in the past against the O's and Jeremy Hellickson has pitched his share of good games against the Birds.
The Orioles are now 5.5 behind the first place Red Sox and four games behind Oakland and Tampa Bay for the two wild card spots. With just over a month left to play, the next two games against the Rays are as big as they get.
It's highly unlikely the Orioles will make up four games on the A's over the next five weeks. The Athletics play one of the weakest schedules in all of baseball while the Orioles have the most difficult. Baltimore's best chance of getting to the playoffs is winning the AL East or edging out Tampa/Boston for the second wild card spot.