Bullpen picks up Hellickson, but bats don't

Bullpen picks up Hellickson, but bats don't

Bullpen picks up Hellickson, but bats don't
ST. PETERSBURG -- For the fifth time in seven games, the Rays were involved in a shutout.

This time, they were on the wrong end, dropping a 4-0 decision to the Orioles on Saturday night at Tropicana Field to even up the weekend series at a game apiece.

Tampa Bay had trouble hitting Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen through his seven innings, during which he allowed just five hits and a walk to go with four strikeouts.

"[Catcher Matt] Wieters put his fingers down and gave me a really good target," Chen said through a translator. "I just hit the target, it was a good game tonight. I feel really, really good pitching in the Major Leagues right now."

Jeremy Hellickson didn't fare as well, lasting just four innings and allowing four runs on eight hits and four walks to go with four strikeouts. The righty fell to 6-7 on the season after having won his previous two starts.

The Rays' bullpen did its part with five scoreless innings, striking out eight and allowing just two hits, but Tampa Bay's offense never came through.

Rays manager Joe Maddon was particularly impressed with reliever J.P. Howell, who came on in the fifth and went two innings, recording four strikeouts and throwing just 18 pitches.

"You can just see the hitters not on him like they had been last year," Maddon said. "They're not getting the same quality swing they had last year, which means that the deception is back; the movement is better."

The Orioles relied heavily on clutch hitting, going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position after going 0-for-7 in such situations on Friday and going hitless in their previous 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position entering Saturday. Each of the O's runs came with two outs.

"[Adam] Jones and I were talking about that today in BP, how we've had opportunities to score runs in certain opportunities but haven't been able to get a run across," Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis said. "And in a game like tonight, when you know you are going up against another good pitcher, it was good for us to get those hits."

Baltimore wasted no time scoring the game's first run. Nick Markakis drew a walk to lead off the game before Hellickson recorded a pair of strikeouts, but a single from Jones moved Markakis to second, and another single by Wieters brought him home.

"They made me work a little bit, and I threw a lot of pitches that first inning," Hellickson said. "They saw everything and were just dialed in the whole game."

Markakis came through again in the second, driving in Nate McLouth -- who went 2-for-4 in his O's debut -- with a two-out single to put Baltimore ahead, 2-0.

The Orioles nearly added another run the next inning when Wieters tried to score from second, but right fielder Sam Fuld delivered a strike to the plate to save a run.

"Good throw; really good throw," Maddon said. "When you do that, you think you're going to stay in the game. That could be a pretty big play right there."

With the bases loaded in the fourth, Davis added another single, doubling the O's lead.

Tampa Bay had its best chance in the fifth, when Ben Zobrist and Jeff Keppinger hit back-to-back singles, but a strikeout by Carlos Pena and a popout by Sean Rodriguez ended the threat.

"It's the same old thing -- we just didn't come up with the big hit," Keppinger said. "Our pitchers kept us in the game for the most part; we just couldn't get the big hit."

B.J. Upton kept the pressure on Baltimore in the sixth, stealing second with two outs, but a sharply hit liner to left field by Keppinger fell into McLouth's glove, ending the frame.

"He's got some late life on his fastball," Keppinger said of Chen. "It looks like it comes at you a little harder than 91 or 92 [mph], like it says up there. He was doing a good job at spotting up at the bottom of the zone today, and he was getting the call. If a pitcher could put the ball consistently at the knees on the corners, then they're going to be effective."

Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.