The game turned for good in the third, and it took a key hit from the heart of the road team's batting order. Tampa Bay's first run came home on an error by third baseman Melvin Mora, and cleanup hitter B.J. Upton put the Rays in the lead with a two-run single through shortstop. Baltimore never scored again, ceding the season opener to a division rival.
"I know we're going to go through our struggles -- personal and as a team," said Adam Jones, the O's starting center fielder. "But that's why you play 162 of them. Now, we have 161 left to come back and do something."
All of Baltimore's offense came in the first inning, and the Orioles hit into three double plays over the course of the game. Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard in the first two innings, but he gave up a single and hit a batter to start the third. One fielder's choice later, Guthrie had one out and runners at the corners.
Left fielder Carl Crawford hit a slow roller toward third base, but Mora charged it and couldn't complete a barehanded stab. One run scored on the play, and one hit later, Upton steered the game-changing hit through the infield. Guthrie went on to work into the sixth inning, but he was charged with nine hits and five earned runs in his first-ever Opening Day start.
"Offensively, they've been good for a number of years," said Guthrie, who ranked second among American League rookies in ERA (3.70) and strikeouts (123) last season. "They're a good offensive team and I think they've complemented that with some more starting pitching. They're a well-rounded team and I think they'll compete well all season."
The Rays (1-0) added one run in the fourth on a solo home run by right fielder Eric Hinske and scored twice more in the sixth to put the game away. Guthrie (0-1) pitched into that latter rally and left with his team trailing by four runs. Matt Albers and Brian Burres handled the relief work for Baltimore, and Guthrie said he was ready to move on to his next outing.
"You have to put any start behind you, good and bad," Guthrie said of his philosophy. "I didn't feel any different after this game than I would have after a game in June and July -- and I've said that since I was named the Opening Day starter. This feels like any other game and, unfortunately, we lost. I feel the same pain losing in July than I do on March 31."
The Orioles (0-1) scored twice off Shields (1-0) in the first inning, but struggled to score again. First baseman Kevin Millar drove home both runs, thanks to a well-stroked ball to left field. Crawford read the ball well and raced back in time to camp out by the wall, but he leapt and deflected the ball away instead of making the catch, allowing two runs to score.
"That was a big play that Crawford made by not catching it," said O's manager Dave Trembley, who was presiding over a big league Opening Day for the first time. "I thought for sure that ball was out of the ballpark. Some balls seemed to hang up. ... It seemed like some balls were traveling more out towards right-center."
"I thought when I hit it [that] it was a home run," added Millar, who's been serving as Baltimore's cleanup hitter in the wake of the Miguel Tejada trade. "When it's cold here, you realize that the ball doesn't carry that great. It was one of those games. We played good defense, they played good defense and we just couldn't get enough runs."
Baltimore hit into rally-killing double plays in both the fourth and the sixth innings. Leadoff man Brian Roberts reached base four times in the loss -- twice on hits and twice on walks -- and wound up as part of another double play in the eighth. Roberts broke for second with one out, but was called out on a strikeout and batter obstruction play.
Roberts reached second without a throw on that play, but Mora was flagged for leaning out over the plate. Home-plate umpire Bob Davidson ruled that Mora got in catcher Dioner Navarro's way, making a throw to second impossible. Trembley discussed the play with Davidson in between innings and seemed satisfied with the interpretation after the game.
"Bob thought that Melvin impaired Navarro's opportunity to throw the ball," said Trembley, explaining the discussion. "I didn't think there was any intent, but it's Bob's judgment and he thought it was. I think all of us were more concerned with the location of the pitch. We assumed it was ball four. Melvin assumed it was ball four and started to walk to first base."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.