The Orioles found themselves needing innings out of their bullpen in Thursday's series finale, an effort that started with the very first pitch. Mark Hendrickson moved back into the rotation on short notice and provided an effective but abbreviated outing, and six relievers helped keep the game close in a 3-0 loss to the Rays.
All six relievers got at least two outs for the Orioles, allowing the entire relief staff to share the extra wear-and-tear. Hendrickson was forced back into the rotation by Baltimore's desire to alleviate the strain on rookie starter Brian Matusz, and manager Dave Trembley scripted out the most pain-free way to get nine innings.
"It takes some thought and you've got to have your guys ready," said Trembley. "You've got to kind of see who's coming up and make sure guys know what the situations are. And you've got to match it up as quick as you can, and you've got to try to keep the score right where it's at before it gets too far out of hand."
And in this case, things were never really out of hand. Baltimore had its best chance to score against opposing starter Wade Davis in the first inning, when it loaded the bases on two walks and a hit. Davis (1-1) managed to escape that jam and retired 25 of the next 28 batters en route to his first career win and complete game.
Tampa Bay (74-73) got on the board in the third inning, courtesy of a two-out triple by Jason Bartlett and a run-scoring single from Carl Crawford. The Rays pushed one more run home in the fourth on a double by Ben Zobrist, a fly ball and a 1-3 sacrifice bunt from Gabe Kapler. Hendrickson (5-5) was charged with both runs.
"We tried to piece it together with Hendrickson," said Trembley. "I thought the first three innings, he was real sharp. That's about what we expected -- 60 pitches. He did a real nice job for the first time out. And we tried to mix and match the best we could, but our scoring opportunities were limited. I think we only had maybe one more after that. You tip your cap to their guy who pitched a complete game, and that should be the story of the game."
Indeed it was, but the Orioles (60-86) had a story of their own to tell. Hendrickson hadn't started since May 12 and had performed as a situational reliever for much of the four months in between. The southpaw had thrown three relief innings in his most recent outing and felt sufficiently prepared to take one for the team.
"It kind of felt like Spring Training trying to get extended out," said Hendrickson. "I had a different kind of energy going out there the first inning. Obviously, it's a little bit different coming out of the bullpen versus starting. But I slowed myself down, made some pitches and for the most part, just tried to keep my team in it."
Dennis Sarfate was the first reliever to get the call, and he helped Hendrickson out of the fourth inning. Sarfate got two quick outs in the fifth but then walked the bases loaded, and Cla Meredith had to help him out of the jam. Brian Bass got two outs in the sixth but then allowed two hits, forcing Trembley to go to the bullpen again.
Sean Henn got three outs for the Orioles, and Chris Ray and Alberto Castillo combined to get the game's final four outs. Trembley knew it would be hard to get nine innings and was mostly pleased with his bullpen.
"I like what I saw out of Henn," he said. "Meredith got a big out to keep us in the game. ... I didn't like Sarfate and Bass, they get two quick outs and let the horse out of the barn. You've got to be able to put it away and you've got to be able to get the third out. We're lucky in both instances the game didn't get really one-sided there."
Davis, who hadn't completed eight innings in any of his Minor League starts, earned his first big league win. The rookie gave up just three hits in the final eight innings and allowed only one more Oriole to reach scoring position. That finish, combined with the near-miss in the first inning, had Baltimore grasping for an explanation.
"Anytime you have bases loaded and you come up empty, you're definitely giving him an opportunity there. We didn't take advantage of it and it wound up hurting us," added right fielder Nick Markakis. "I just think he was hitting his spots, working in and out, changing speeds. He kept us off-balance all night."
Davis struck out 10 batters on the night, and one of them got Trembley tossed from the game. A few of Baltimore's players began chirping at home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa after Melvin Mora's strikeout in the seventh inning, and after the umpire spread some harsh words toward the dugout, Trembley came out to argue.
The dispute led to Trembley's fourth ejection of the season and the 10th of his career. And it didn't end there. Bench coach Dave Jauss came out to argue with Kulpa in the ninth inning but managed to avoid an ejection.
"I don't know," said Trembley of his on-field argument. "I don't ever think you get your money's worth. Lord knows I've paid enough of it. I don't think you ever get your money's worth, but you get your point across."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.