Gonzalez struggles in O's loss to Rays

Gonzalez struggles in O's loss to Rays

Gonzalez struggles in O's loss to Rays
BALTIMORE -- The first time Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez lifted his arm over his head and released the ball on Wednesday night, he put his team behind.

By the time the right-hander had recorded the game's first three outs, an already-struggling Baltimore lineup was faced with a daunting uphill battle of climbing out of a five-run hole against Rays ace David Price.

Those first 20 minutes, a 36-pitch inning that that started with a leadoff homer by Desmond Jennings and ended with a two-run single from No. 9 batter Elliot Johnson, foreshadowed the Orioles' fate.

Buried early, Baltimore sunk into the abyss in allowing one of baseball's worst offenses to storm to a 10-1 victory at Camden Yards.

The disappointing loss drops the Orioles (51-47) into a second-place tie with Tampa Bay in the American League East and two-and-a-half games back of the second Wild Card spot.

"I couldn't get my command," said Gonzalez, whose early issues snowballed and forced his exit after 2 2/3 innings. "Obviously whatever happened didn't work out for me. I just want to forget about tonight's game."

For the third consecutive start, Gonzalez allowed a first-inning homer. But this time he was unable to right the ship, issuing a walk and back-to-back hit-by-pitches to help gift Tampa Bay five first-inning runs.

After a clean second inning, Gonzalez recorded just two outs in the third as Ryan Roberts -- traded to the Rays late Tuesday night -- went deep for a two-run homer less than three hours after joining his new team.

"I thought actually the tack-on runs after five were really big regardless of who was pitching," manager Buck Showalter said. "It really opened [Price] up to attack the zone, and when you're trying to get back in it, you're so susceptible to anything soft.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the American League. You hate to spot him that, but at 5-1, I still thought whatever. But you knew you were going to have to pitch a lot of innings out of your bullpen again."

It's a sight the Orioles -- who have struggled with consistency in their rotation most of the season -- could do without. Despite a starting staff that is still in flux, Baltimore pieced together seven consecutive quality starts heading into Wednesday's game. But Gonzalez's eight-out outing could have effects on the team's roster -- and available relievers -- for the next few days.

"When a guy counts on command and making a hitter realize that he has a lot of different pitches that he'll throw in any count, he kind of needs to establish that early, and he wasn't able to do that," Showalter said of Gonzalez, who allowed a career-high in runs and hits, exiting with the bases loaded in the third. "And that's been somewhat of a challenge for him."

Inserted into the starting rotation at the beginning of the month out of need, Gonzalez -- a late Minor League signing who wasn't even in big league camp this spring -- has allowed 12 earned runs on 20 hits and nine walks over his last 15 innings.

Gonzalez said he had trouble gripping the ball on Wdnesday and his command -- he hit three batters -- was noticeably off from the onset.

Meanwhile, Price took the early lead and ran with it.

"It's nice when your pitcher is able to just keep it rolling for you and not give the other team any hope whatsoever," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Price, who picked up his Major League-leading 14th win. "He did not permit them back into the game."

The Orioles scored a first-inning run on J.J. Hardy's single, but that's all they got off the 26-year-old Price, who won his sixth straight decision -- setting a career-high in the process -- in a seven-inning outing. The Orioles offense has been held to one run in each of their last three games and have scored three or fewer in eight of nine.

"We're all frustrated," Hardy said. "We want to come through for the team, but we've had stretches. Every team I've been on it seems like we are always having this conversation at some point during the season. And we'll get out of it."

The Rays offense, which tagged Gonzalez for seven runs -- more than their previous three games combined -- pushed the lead to 10-1 on a three-run homer from No. 8 batter Jose Lobaton.

The towering homer, which sailed into right-field, came off reliever Matt Lindstrom and was the first of Lobaton's career. Lindstrom went 2 1/3 innings following Gonzalez, with four O's relievers following with a scoreless frame apiece.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.