Five-run second not enough for Rays
Sonnanstine squanders early lead in loss to Orioles
BALTIMORE -- Rays manager Joe Maddon talked about the toll exacted by playing bunches of games against American League East opponents.
With Tuesday's opener against the Orioles, the Rays have played five consecutive series against AL East teams, and Maddon stressed how such battles can be taxing, regardless of the outcome.
Games against AL East teams "grind on you," the Rays manager said after a 7-5 loss to Baltimore on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.
"The Orioles are a good offensive club," Maddon said. "I see them as a good offensive team. I know we got them a little bit last year, but I've never felt comfortable playing against them."
Not only did Tuesday night bring defeat, it also spent the bullpen.
Andy Sonnanstine started for the Rays, and from the first inning through the third, the Orioles teed off on the right-hander. Despite the four-run lead handed to him by Tampa Bay's offense, Sonnanstine could not find a rhythm. Adam Jones hit two home runs in the first two innings off Sonnanstine to help cut his night short.
"It was probably the most frustrating start I've ever had," Sonnanstine said.
Maddon seemed perplexed about why Sonnanstine had the results he did.
"His last start was very good in New York," Maddon said. "Tonight he just wasn't getting it done. The stuff was the same, but the results were not. Velocity was still the same. Not that he hung a lot of breaking pitches. They just got him tonight."
Sonnanstine echoed his manager's sentiment.
"I really can't [figure out what went wrong]," Sonnanstine said. "I felt good physically. I felt like my pitches were good. It just wasn't my night. I felt like they had my number."
Sonnanstine did not retire any of the three hitters he faced in the third, allowing a run on three consecutive hits, which prompted his early exit and left six long innings for the bullpen to eat. Since Tampa Bay is in the midst of a stretch that will see it play 40 games in 41 days, it was hardly an ideal scenario.
"We're at a point now where we're utilizing our bullpen way too much, picking up innings," Maddon said. "We did it a couple of nights ago in Boston. We did it again tonight. We're just picking up a lot out of the bullpen.
"We've got to do better with that, we can't just keep relying on these guys to be able to suck up that many innings. We just have to get more depth out of more of our starters."
Oddly enough, the game that began as a slugfest turned into a pitchers' duel between the bullpens. The Rays chased Hendrickson after taking a 5-1 lead in the second, leading to a parade of Baltimore relievers -- Brian Bass, Danys Baez, Jim Johnson and George Sherrill -- who did not allow a run.
Following Sonnanstine's departure, the combined efforts of Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler managed to allow no runs in six combined innings.
"The pitching got better," Maddon said. "We got to Hendrickson, they got to Sonnanstine. I was just trying to stretch some more innings out of Sonnanstine to prevent having to [use the bullpen so much]. But it just didn't want to get done, so we had to make the adjustment.
"I think they have some really good arms in their bullpen. Both bullpens did pitch very well."
Carl Crawford, who passed Aubrey Huff for first on the Rays' all-time RBI list with 451 on his two-run double in Tampa Bay's five-run second inning, said the loss was frustrating after having a four-run lead.
"It's frustrating, because you score five runs then give up all those runs, you've got to battle back," Crawford said. "It's kind of tough on you because you want to win those games where you jump out so far ahead. But tonight, we gave it up."
On the bright side, Maddon pointed out that while his bullpen absorbed six innings, all of his relievers will be available for Wednesday's finale.
Maddon stood up for his Sonnanstine when asked if it was too early to consider taking him out of the rotation.
"Oh yes, it's too early," Maddon said. "He just pitched a great game [in his previous start]. He had a tough night tonight, there's no question about that. But I look at health and I look at stuff. And he looked pretty normal. There's something there that we have to fix on a more consistent basis. It was just a bad night for him."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.