ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Nelson Cruz homered twice, three pitchers combined on a four-hitter, and the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays extended the Baltimore Orioles’ losing streak to 13 games with a 10-0 victory on Tuesday night.
Cruz moved past Dave Kingman into 42nd place on the all-time home runs list with 443. His three-run shot off John Means (5-5) during a five-run fifth inning made it 8-0, and he hit a two-run shot in the sixth against Tanner Scott. The slugger, acquired from Minnesota on July 22, has seven of his 26 homers this season with Tampa Bay and has 39 career multi-homer games.
“He has really thickened us a lot,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We have guys like that in our league that you just know where they’re at and you know the positive effect it has on everybody throughout the lineup.”
Next on the home run list for Cruz are Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Bagwell, who are tied for 40th with 449.
“Never imagined growing up that I’m going to hit that many homers and I’m going to be on that list,” Cruz said. “I played with Vladdy. He was my idol growing up, the guy I wanted to play like. Just blessed.”
Drew Rasmussen allowed one hit over four innings, Adam Conley worked a hitless fifth and Chad Ellis (1-0) got his first major league win with three-hit ball over the final four innings.
Mike Zunino homered in his fifth consecutive game for the Rays, who are 13-1 against Baltimore this season. Tampa Bay has scored at least nine runs nine times and reached double digits five times in the season series.
Tampa Bay holds a season-high five-game divisional lead over Boston and the New York Yankees, who swept a doubleheader from the sliding Red Sox.
Baltimore has been outscored 123-36 during its current skid and is in danger of overtaking Arizona as the majors’ worst team. The Orioles lost 14 in a row from May 18-31.
“It’s awful,” Means said. “A lot of our guys are losing sleep. A lot of guys are frustrated with what they’re doing, especially me.”
The announced crowd of 4,795 was the smallest for a Rays game at Tropicana Field without COVID-19 restrictions. Monday night’s opener of the four-game series drew 5,460.
Wander Franco reached leading off the fourth when shortstop Jorge Mateo misplayed his grounder for an error. Franco scored on Manuel Margot’s double, and with two outs, Zunino made it 3-0 on his career-high 26th homer.
After Cruz’s homer in the fifth, Brandon Lowe had an RBI double and scored when second baseman Ramón Urías stumbled moving backwards behind second base before falling to the ground in an unsuccessful attempt to catch Zunino’s popup.
Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena had four hits, including three off Means.
Means, the Orioles’ ace who had a no-hitter earlier this season, gave up seven runs (four earned) and eight hits in four-plus innings.
Orioles rookie Ryan Mountcastle returned from concussion injured list and went 1-for-3 with a ninth-inning double. He had been out since Aug. 7.
The Orioles are the fifth team since 1901 to have two losing streaks of 13 or more games in the same season. The others are Arizona (this year), the New York Mets (1962), the Boston Rustlers (1911 and 1935) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1919).
INF-OF Stevie Wilkerson was released by Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles’ top minor league team. Wilkerson became the first position player to get a save when he pitched the 16th inning of Baltimore’s 10-8 win over the Los Angeles Angels on July 26, 2019.
Orioles: 1B Trey Mancini was out of the lineup with a sore left calf. He fouled balls off the calf and his left foot on Monday night.
Rays: RHP Chris Archer (right forearm tightness) allowed three runs and one hit over 4 2/3 innings for Triple-A Durham. He could join the rotation next week. Reliever Nick Anderson (right elbow) gave up two runs and two hits over one inning in the same game.
Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.76 ERA) is set to come off the COVID-19 IL and pitch Wednesday night against Baltimore RHP Spenser Watkins (2-4, 5.25). Yarbrough missed eight days.
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