BALTIMORE — Looks as if the Baltimore Orioles are going to have to play catch-up again in their bid to make the playoffs.
The Orioles managed only five hits and lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4 Tuesday night, their sixth defeat in eight games.
Baltimore fell to 67-58 and dropped six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, pending Boston's late matchup against San Francisco. The Orioles also lost ground in the wild-card chase.
A year ago, the Orioles were in third place on Aug. 22 with a 67-57 record. They rallied to make the postseason for the first time since 1997, and now they're hoping for a similar run.
"You'd be surprised how quickly this season can slow down and things can turn, so you've got to be prepared to take advantage of that and we have the people to do it," manager Buck Showalter said. "At some point, some of the frustration they feel will start getting played out on the field toward the opposition."
Alex Cobb took a two-hitter into the seventh inning and Matt Joyce drove in three runs for the second-place Rays, who won the first two games of the series and will seek a sweep on Wednesday night.
"It's very big for where we're at in the division and the fact we're chasing the Red Sox a little bit and also trying to create some distance, because we know the O's and the Yankees are very capable and very tough competitors," said Ben Zobrist, who had two hits and an RBI. "We don't anticipate it being any sort of easy road to the end of September and we've got to battle. This is two great wins for us to start off."
And for the Orioles, it was a horrid way to begin a six-game stretch at home against Tampa Bay and Oakland.
"It's not the position we would prefer to find ourselves in after the first two games of the series, that's for sure, but there's still plenty of baseball left for us to make up some ground," said Nate McLouth, who went 0 for 5. "It's not ideal at all, but we won't let this game affect (Wednesday's) game."
Cobb (8-2) was making his second start since being hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer on June 15. The right-hander allowed two runs, one earned, three hits and four walks in six-plus innings to win his fifth straight decision.
Cobb left after Baltimore used two walks and a single to load the bases with no outs in the seventh. Alex Torres got Brian Roberts to hit into a run-scoring double play before striking out McLouth to keep the Rays ahead 3-2.
"They brought in that lefty with that really good changeup to come in and do exactly what he did and that's why they're such a tough team," McLouth said. "Because they can make life pretty tough on you."
Joyce doubled in two runs in the ninth off T.J. McFarland and Wil Myers added a broken-bat, two-run single off Jim Johnson.
Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer in the bottom half before Fernando Rodney entered and got three outs for his 29th save.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (8-6) gave up three runs, two earned, eight hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander is 0-3 in five starts since July 20.
One night after getting 15 hits in a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay, Baltimore went quietly against Cobb and the Tampa Bay bullpen.
"We didn't get any hits. That's obvious," Showalter said. "If you want to look for a reason, I personally look at Cobb, who was tough. We didn't do much off him tonight. I think that was it in a nutshell."
The Rays have won seven of eight against the Orioles to take an 8-5 lead in the season series.
The two teams with the fewest errors in the majors each gave up an unearned run in the second inning. In the top half, Joyce walked, advanced on an errant pickoff throw by Gonzalez and scored on a two-out bloop by Yunel Escobar.
Baltimore tied it when Evan Longoria muffed a grounder and Flaherty singled in a run with two outs.
Tampa Bay went up 3-1 in the third. After Desmond Jennings walked and scored on a double by Zobrist, Longoria singled and Joyce delivered a sacrifice fly.
Gonzalez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by getting James Loney to bounce into a double play.
NOTES: Zobrist moved into a fifth-place tie with B.J. Upton on the team's career RBI list with 447. Aubrey Huff is in fourth with 449. ... Jeremy Hellickson, who's 8-3 lifetime against Baltimore, starts for Tampa Bay in the series finale Wednesday night. LH Wei-Yin Chen will pitch for Baltimore. ... The Orioles had won five straight over the Rays with Gonzalez as the starter. ... McLouth is hitless in his last 17 at-bats.