ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 08: Justin Ruggiano #16 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits an RBI single against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 8, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Nick Markakis Hits Grand Slam As Rays Lose To Orioles, 7-0

The Rays and Justin Ruggiano look to stay hot against the Baltimore Orioles and push their win streak to four games.

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Nick Markakis Hits Grand Slam As Rays Lose To Orioles 7-0

Jeremy Hellickson was just a little bit off last night, but it was enough to put the Rays in a hole they couldn’t recover from. For the most part, Hellickson’s repertoire looked good on the mound; he has great movement on his curveball and he was getting players to whiff on his changeup, but there was one key element missing: his control.

The home plate umpire was calling a very weird zone — tight at times, wide at others — but that didn’t hurt Hellickson too much as he had trouble locating pitches near the corners of the strike zone. Many of his pitches either ended up over the heart of the plate or way outside, and he couldn’t keep his changeups low in the zone.

This lack of control resulted in lots of baserunners for the Orioles – 7 hits and 3 walks in only 5.2 innings – but the Rays still almost got away with it. Hellickson let up a run in the first inning on a homerun by J.J. Hardy, and then he nearly escaped a jam in the second inning without any damage. Luke Scott walked and Mark Reynolds doubled to start the inning, but then Hellickson had some good luck bounce his way: Felix Pie missed a hanging curveball and hit a weak line drive to Zobrist at second base, and then Robert Andino put down a horrible bunt attempt that went right back to the mound and made for an easy out. Hellickson then walked Hardy — the dude’s hot right now, so I can’t blame Hellboy for that — and promptly allowed a grand slam homerun to Nick Markakis on a hanging curveball that missed its spot.

After that, the game was all but over. The Rays offense was without Matt Joyce last night, as he was suffering some shoulder soreness after a cortisone injection, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. The Rays didn’t get their first hit of the night until Sam Fuld hit a lead-off double in the sixth inning, and they only had a total of 7 baserunners all night. Jake Arrieta was certainly good, but it never looked like his stuff was all that dominant; he was missing locations too and walked three batters, but the Rays simply couldn’t make him pay. It was yet another example of the Rays’ patented LOLfense.

Game Notes:

- This is probably just the hyper-sensitive fan in me freaking out, but why was Matt Joyce getting a cortisone injection in his shoulder to begin with? Is it standard practice for players to get these injections just to deal with regular wear and tear over the course of a season? I feel like we only hear about cortisone injections when something is wrong with a player and the team is trying to make them feel better, but I suppose it’s likely that they’re simply standard practice among players and teams. I mean, if something isn’t wrong, why would we hear about it?

- Justin Ruggiano had two more hit last night, the lone Ray to have more than one hit. Ben Zobrist reached base most often, though, walking three times on the evening. But that’s all she wrote — without those two hitters, the Rays would have been a walk and a double away from being perfect game’d.

- I know he’s just a long reliever, but can we demote Andy Sonnanstine already? Pretty please?


Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Baltimore Orioles: Game One Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays (33-29) are back in action today, visiting the Baltimore Orioles (29-31) for a three-game set. Taking the mound for the Rays, Jeremy Hellickson (7-3, 2.64 ERA, 3.67 FIP) looks for his third straight victory after having pitched exceptionally in the early going this year. Advanced statistics (like Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP) suggest Hellickson has been pitching a bit over his head lately, but hopefully his regression to expectations will not come too hard or soon because -- even though the Orioles have been cellar dwellers in the AL East for some time -- the 2011 Orioles present more of a challenge than in the past.

Particularly tough is tonight's starter, Jake Arrieta (7-3, 4.93 ERA, 4.64 FIP), who has been the exact opposite of Jeremy Hellickson, in some respects, this year. Arrieta has an inflated ERA, near 5.00, but his expected FIP(4.20 xFIP) actually bests that of Jeremy Hellickson (4.32 xFIP).

One key to the Rays success lately has been the killer offense from minor league journeyman Justin Ruggiano. Since the calender struck June, Ruggiano has hit a dandy .333/.333/.600 slash over 15 plate appearances. He recent hot hitting may earn him a few more starts against right-handed pitchers, especially given Sam Fuld's extended slump (he has hit a terrible .170/.200/.255 slash since the beginning of May.

Game Time: 7:05 p.m. ET at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Television: Sun Sports HD
Radio: WDAE 620 AM, WGES 680 AM

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