"Their bullpen was better," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "They matched up and got situational outs. We didn't. [Evan] Longoria played a very good game at third. That's kind of their trademark, why they're going to the playoffs. They pitch it, they throw strikes and they catch it. Their infield defense is very good. That's the game. That's all I saw."
The Orioles, who have seen their starting pitcher win just five times since Aug. 10, got a decent performance from Garrett Olson on Tuesday. The southpaw kept Tampa Bay from even reaching scoring position in the first four innings but made a crucial error in the fifth that led to a game-tying rally. One inning later, Olson let the Rays take the lead.
Baltimore (67-89) took a two-run lead in the second inning on a home run by Lou Montanez, and Olson (9-10) took that all the way into the fifth. Olson sandwiched two hits around a strikeout and then threw wildly to first base on a pickoff attempt, allowing one run to score and the other runner to reach second base. One double later, the game was tied.
"It's definitely one of those deals. I let the ball get away from me," said Olson of the key play. "It happened a couple times this year and it's something that just can't happen -- especially at this level -- and I think that was definitely a big turning point in the game. I felt like after that happened, [we] lose that lead, pretty soon it's a tie ballgame and then they gain the lead."
Tampa Bay (94-62) came back for more in the fifth, using a two-out rally to assume command. Catcher Dioner Navarro got a two-out single to advance the cause, and after Olson walked Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett doubled in the go-ahead run. Zobrist wound up getting cut down at the plate on a strong relay, but the Orioles would never tie the game again.
Trembley, who has been critical of Olson in recent weeks, said his starter didn't pitch well enough to win.
"I think the numbers would tell you what kind of year it's been for him. He's won nine ballgames, so he did something right, but there are other areas that definitely stand out," he said. "Command has been an issue with him, or lack thereof."
Olson, when asked how he would evaluate his season, was considerably more even-handed.
"I would say I'm very happy," he said, knowing that he could start Sunday. "I feel like I went out there and gave 100 percent every day. I feel like I didn't cheat myself or the team, and obviously you look at some of the numbers and the year, it could have been better. But overall, I can't be disappointed with it. I think I've learned a lot from it and gave it everything I had."
James Shields, who started for Tampa Bay, turned in a typically strong performance. The right-hander went seven innings and allowed just two runs, both of which scored on the home run in the second inning. Baltimore's next best opportunity came in the fifth inning, but Shields (14-8) got third baseman Aubrey Huff to ground into a 3-6-1 double play.
"The other team is making big pitches when they have to," said Trembley of his team's produBen ction. "You can look at it that way or you can say that when we get scoring opportunities, we're not knocking them in. That's just the way it is."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.