- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The lack of timely hitting again doomed the Tampa Bay Rays.

Steve Pearce hit a two-run homer, Ubaldo Jimenez won his second straight start and the Baltimore Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Rays with a 3-1 victory Thursday night.

Tampa Bay had four hits in 26 at-bats, including 1 for 12 Thursday, with runners in scoring position during the three-game series. The Rays left 28 runners on base overall.

“It’s been real up and down, and inconsistent,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. “Our goal right now is to figure out a way to get through it. Continue to be positive. We all want to win. We all want to do our part. When it doesn’t work out, it’s definitely frustrating.”

Pearce’s second homer in three days came off David Price (3-3) after J.J. Hardy’s double in the second inning.

“I lost,” Price said. “Absolutely frustrating.”

Price gave up three runs and nine hits while striking out three in five-plus innings.

The Orioles had a chance to increase their 3-1 lead when they loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Brad Boxberger took over for Price and struck out three straight batters on nine pitches.

“That was incredible,” Price said. “I don’t know if that’s ever been done in baseball. Could be a part of history.”

The Rays said although pitch count records are incomplete, there is no record of any other big league pitcher entering with the bases loaded and immediately striking out the side on nine pitches.

Longoria’s two-out single in the first drove in the game’s first run.

Singles by Adam Jones, Pearce and Jonathan Schoop produced Baltimore’s final run in the fourth.

Jimenez (2-4) pitched 5 1-3 innings, giving up seven hits while striking out three. Darren O’Day worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the ninth for his second save.

The Rays had major threats during the ninth in all three games.

“They had some opportunities that they squandered,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We all know where they’re going to be at the end of the year. Better to get them when you can.”

NOTES: Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey was ejected in the first inning for arguing a checked swing by Jones. … Rays RHP Alex Cobb (strained left oblique) will throw in a simulated game Friday. … Baltimore C Matt Wieters was the designated hitter, one day after having his sore right elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. No time frame has been announced for when Wieters, who took pregame grounders at first base, will resume catching. … Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi, scheduled to start Friday against Cleveland, said he can’t worry about the .465 average opponents have compiled against him the second time through the order. “You can’t really do anything about the second time through the order until you get through it the first time,” he said.

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