BALTIMORE (AP) - A potential double-play grounder turned into two runs for the Baltimore Orioles, causing Tampa Bay's lead to disappear.
It was only the fifth inning, but the misstep proved to be a pivotal moment in the Rays' 5-4 loss Thursday night.
Tampa Bay played the Orioles even for much of the game, and that key play showed why Baltimore leads the AL East and the Rays are struggling to remain relevant in the playoff hunt.
The Rays led 4-2 with one out in the fifth when the Orioles loaded the bases. Rays manager Joe Maddon brought in left-hander Jeff Beliveau to face Chris Davis.
Davis hit a grounder to second. After shortstop Yunel Escobar took the toss for a force at second base, his relay soared over Beliveau's head at first base.
''We kind of gave that to them. That's why we're in the situation we're in,'' Maddon said. ''Beliveau comes in, does a wonderful job, gets the groundball. That's a play we normally do make, we should make, and it turns out to be two runs and that really alters the strategy the rest of the night.''
Beliveau said: ''I beat him to the bag; I don't think he's that fast. As soon as I got to the bag, I looked up and it was about 20 feet over my head.''
J.J. Hardy drove in the tiebreaking run in the seventh after an intentional walk to Davis, a .188 hitter, and Tampa Bay never recovered.
The Rays lost three of four to Baltimore for only their second road series loss in the last 11. Tampa Bay now stands four games under .500.
This defeat can be blamed squarely on the defense.
''You can't do that and expect to win,'' Maddon said. ''Baltimore's playing at a high level. I think we have been also. We uncharacteristically gave this game up on defense tonight. And we just did and that's the story line, pure and simple.''
In the seventh, Nelson Cruz doubled with two outs off Kirby Yates (0-2) and Davis was walked intentionally. Hardy followed with a pop to right field that fell in.
''Yates, the guy he's got to be able to get out is Hardy in that moment because he really matches up extremely well against him,'' Maddon said. ''I know it was a blooper, but the pitch was elevated and that's why he was able to do what he did.''
Andrew Miller (4-5) pitched 1 2-3 hitless innings and Zach Britton worked a perfect ninth for his 29th save.
Evan Longoria homered and drove in two runs for the Rays. It was a rough night for Escobar, who made two errors, went hitless and was struck on a hand with a pitch.
Tampa Bay used a two-run fifth to take a 4-2 lead. Longoria followed two singles with a sacrifice fly and James Loney hit an RBI double.
It didn't hold up.
Rays: Longoria has 32 RBIs and six homers in 37 games since the All-Star break.
Orioles: Steve Pearce has hit in a career-high 11 straight games. During that stretch he's batting .333 with 10 extra-base hits, 11 runs scored and six RBIs.
Rays: OF David DeJesus (left hand fracture) is 5 for 17 in seven games on his rehabilitation assignment and ''is close to being ready,'' Maddon said.
Orioles: 3B Manny Machado (knee) and C Matt Wieters (elbow) were tending to their injuries Thursday and missed being part of the annual team picture.
Rays: Tampa Bay resumes its contentious rivalry with the visiting Boston Red Sox on Friday night. Chris Archer (8-6), who criticized David Ortiz after his home run trot on June 27, starts for the Rays.
Orioles: Miguel Gonzalez (6-7) takes the mound for Baltimore on Friday night in the opener of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins, the first meeting between the teams since May 4.