Just when you think the right-hander from Kwanju, South Korea, might be ready to find another gear, he slams his pitching into reverse. On Tuesday night, he put the Rays in a hole from which they could not recover in an 8-3 loss to the Orioles in front of a crowd of 17,818 at Camden Yards.
Seo entered the game on the heels of his first quality start of the season in his last outing Wednesday against the Twins.
"I thought the outing a couple of days ago might have turned the tide for him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And, again, I always try to look at history. This guy notoriously does not pitch as well in April as he does in May. And that's probably something we can still look forward to. But I thought the last outing may have cured all of that. Good team, Minnesota. He gave up the homer to [Torii Hunter] and that was pretty much it."
Entering Tuesday night's contest, Seo had made six starts, and twice he did not make it to the fourth inning. He didn't get there again against the O's, either.
"He just couldn't get the ball down," Maddon said. "I mean that's what it looked like from where I was at. Fastball, changeup, everything was up. He threw a couple of decent breaking balls, but his bread and butter pretty much is fastball location and changeup location, and it just wasn't there tonight."
Seo took his third loss on the season against one win. More troubling is the fact he has just two wins in 23 starts for the Rays since coming to the team along with catcher Dioner Navarro last summer in a midseason trade that sent Mark Hendrickson and Toby Hall to the Dodgers.
Seo quickly got into a jam in the first after hitting Nick Markakis, the second batter he faced. A single, a walk and a two-run, two-out single by Melvin Mora followed to put the O's up 2-0.
The Rays managed to cut the O's lead in half in the second, when Ty Wigginton doubled and scored on Carlos Pena's double. Then Seo found more trouble in the second, culminating with a two-run homer by Markakis. Jay Payton added an RBI triple in the third to put the O's up 5-1 and effectively chase Seo, who said he primarily could not get his changeup down.
"Today the ball was just elevated," Maddon said. "That's what it was. I mean, we've been working on it. He's been working on it. I thought he had it down, down in the sense that he figured it out. But it wasn't there tonight."
Seo has given up 56 hits and 37 runs this season, both of which are American League highs, and he has allowed 70 baserunners in 32 2/3 innings. He is 0-3 with a 10.89 ERA on the road.
Fortunately for the Rays, an influx of arms arrived prior to the game in the form of Tim Corcoran and Chad Orvella, so Maddon did not feel like he had to leave Seo in just for the sake of killing innings.
"Corky and Chad being there definitely helped," Maddon said. "But I just didn't see it. It was an observation. I could see that [Seo] was trying to get it down, and just couldn't get it down. And I still thought we had a chance to win the game at that point. I just felt [taking out Seo] was the right thing to do at that moment."
O's starter Jeremy Guthrie hung a quality start on the Rays, allowing one run on six hits. He also got a break in the sixth when replays showed Carl Crawford's double should have been a home run.
"It certainly looked like it hit the top of the back wall and then bounced back onto the field, and that's what I thought it was," Maddon said. "And I'll say this, I have so much respect for [second-base umpire] Jerry Crawford, and he was out there also. He hustled on the play. He was out there. They just missed it. It happens."
Navarro and Brendan Harris had RBI singles in seventh to cut the Rays' lead to 5-3. But Aubrey Huff's RBI double in the bottom half of the inning gave the O's a 6-3 lead. The O's then added two runs in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Pena led the Rays' offense with a 4-for-4 performance, which was the most hits he has had in a game since May 27, 2004, when he had a career-high six.
"We know what kind of a lineup we got and that we're able to score some runs," Pena said. "So we just keep coming. Putting up quality [at-bats], and the next thing you know we're back in the game. And I felt like we actually did that today. Ultimately we fell short. ... We gave ourselves a shot to win again. Unfortunately they kept on swinging those bats and basically came out with the victory. But we didn't give up. We piled up some good [at-bats] late in the game."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.