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Late stumble rare for Orioles in loss to Rays

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles had won 109 consecutive games when leading after seven innings -- a streak that stretched to the 2011 season. But Tampa Bay ended that run on Saturday

Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist hit two-run doubles, and Kelly Johnson added a solo home run in a six-run ninth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays rallied for a 10-6 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

The Orioles, who have now dropped four in a row, led the entire game after a four-run first inning, but Tampa Bay (22-20) kept chipping away and finally took the lead with the big ninth. Baltimore closer Jim Johnson blew his second straight save opportunity after converting a club-record 35 in a row.

"That was absolutely huge to be able to get to Jim Johnson like that, one of the best closers in the game," Joyce said. "With the way things have kind of been going for us in the later innings, it's good to get one for ourselves."

The Rays have struggled to hold leads throughout the season. Tampa Bay has lost leads 25 times in the first 42 games and also has had problems later in the games.

Baltimore (23-19) last lost a game it led after seven innings on Aug. 8, 2011. The 109-game streak is the second longest of the expansion era. The Yankees hold the record (116, 1998-99).

"We were strong enough to finish out that game," Johnson said. "I just blew it. I just sucked tonight. We will come back here tomorrow. Nothing is easy."

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said he likes how his team has kept an even keel despite some frustrating losses.

"We've had some bad moments, and truthfully, had we just been clicking on all cylinders our record would be kind of outstanding right now," Maddon sad. "But we don't give in, and we don't point fingers. If you don't think it can happen, it never will. If you think it can happen, then it shall."

It happened in the ninth despite the Orioles coming into the inning with a 6-4 and Johnson taking the mound.

Kelly Johnson started the inning with a one-out solo homer off Jim Johnson. The right-hander then walked two and gave up a bloop single to Desmond Jennings, loading the bases for Joyce, who lined a two-run double that gave the Rays a 7-6 lead.

Joyce finished with two doubles, a home run and five RBI. Ten of Tampa Bay's 11 hits went for extra bases.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter pulled Johnson (1-4) and brought in Darren O'Day.

Zobrist greeted him with his two-run double to right. Luke Scott later drew a bases-loaded walk before Kelly Johnson grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Maddon gave reliever Alex Torres (1-0) much of the credit for this win. Torres threw four innings of hitless relief starting in the fifth.

"Alex Torres, totally the star of the game," Maddon said. "Of course, we did the nice things in the last inning, but it does not happen without what Alex did. We win the game because he pitches so wel -- that's it."

Baltimore appeared to be in command early when Adam Jones and Chris Davis hit back-to-back home runs off starter Roberto Hernandez during a four-run inning. But the Rays began to rally in the third when Yunel Escobar hit an RBI double and Joyce added a two-run homer.

Maddon pulled Hernandez after the right-hander hit Davis to start the third. Cesar Ramos came on and gave up an RBI double to Hardy later in the inning.

The Orioles made it 6-3 in the fourth when Nate McLouth scored as Jones, who had three RBIs, grounded into a force play.

Tampa Bay added a run in the fifth on Joyce's bloop double to left. That made it 6-4, and the Orioles appeared in command when Johnson came on in the ninth -- but the Rays had other ideas.

"I think their track record after seven innings has spoken for itself. They've been really good late in the game, and Jim Johnson has been as good as they come," Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria said. "To be able to get to him and then tack a couple more on and be able to win a game late like that ... is really big."

NOTES: J.J. Hardy's infield single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 13 games. ... The Orioles optioned infielder Ryan Flaherty to Triple-A Norfolk after the game. ... Jose Molina's third-inning double was reviewed by the umpires on video after the ball hit right at the top of the center-field fence. The umpires ruled it was not a home run. Molina came out of the game because of a left hamstring injury after starting the top of the fifth with his second double. ... The Rays finished the game with eight doubles and two home runs.
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