ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Baltimore opening day starter Jason Hammel came up just short in a tight matchup with Tampa Bay's Chris Archer.
Archer pitched seven strong innings and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run homer off Hammel as the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Rays on Friday night.
"That's baseball," Hammel said. "It's a funny game, sometimes. You can have a pitcher's duel, you can have a slugfest. I like the pitching duel because it's just fun. It's suspenseful. Both guys are on their game and executing pitches. Tonight it just ended up being the one pitch that cost us and myself the game."
Jennings homered to the deepest part of the ballpark in the seventh inning off Hammel (7-4), who lost on the road for the first time this year after winning his first six decisions away from Camden Yards.
"You have two good teams that played a close game and pitched well on both sides," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "A small margin of error. They pitched just a tad better."
Hammel followed up his shortest outing of the season by taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh. The right-hander allowed five runs in three-plus innings of a 10-3 loss to Detroit last Saturday and was ejected from that game after yielding home runs to three consecutive batters and then hitting Matt Tuiasosopo with a pitch in the left shoulder.
The Orioles' starter yielded two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings this time.
"I was happy to get back out there," Hammel said. "The last one leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially when you're told to leave the game and you can't finish what you wanted to try to do. It was nice to come back with a good effort."
Archer (1-1) limited the Orioles to Manny Machado's third-inning RBI single and Ryan Flaherty's fifth-inning double in his second start of the season. The 24-year-old right-hander spent the first two months of the season at Triple-A Durham and allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings of a 5-0 loss to Cleveland after being promoted to the majors last weekend.
Archer allowed one run, walked two and struck out two to earn his second career victory. Joel Peralta worked the eighth for the Rays, and Fernando Rodney finished the combined two-hitter with a perfect ninth for his 13th save in 18 opportunities.
Archer began the season as one of the top prospects in Tampa Bay's minor league system. He made six appearances in the majors last season, including four starts, going 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA.
"Chris, he threw a great game," Hammel said. "Was able to make the pitches when he needed to, keep our guys off balance. One of the best offenses in the league, it's not easy to keep us to two hits. You've got to commend him for his effort."
The two hits were a season low for the Orioles. Baltimore also ended a streak of 34 consecutive games with at least two extra-base hits.
The Rays' starter walked Chris Dickerson and Nate McLouth ahead of Machado's two-out RBI single in the third. He gave up a two-out double to Flaherty in the fifth, but escaped further damage when Adam Jones grounded to shortstop to end the inning.
Hammel, the first Baltimore pitcher to enter June with at least seven wins since Mike Mussina in 1999, was just as good through six innings.
The Rays stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings, with Hammel retiring Kelly Johnson on a fly ball to right field to end one threat and getting Luke Scott to fly to center to stop the other.
James Loney singled leading off the seventh for the fourth hit off Hammel. Jennings hit his sixth homer of the season to center field on the first pitch.
NOTES: Orioles RF Nick Markakis rejoined the team after missing two games to attend his grandmother's funeral. ... Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby missed Friday's game to attend his daughter's graduation. Einar Diaz filled in for Kirby, who will return Saturday. ... Baltimore optioned OF Xavier Avery to Triple-A Norfolk and recalled LHP Mike Belfiore from Norfolk. ... Showalter said INF Brian Roberts (right hamstring) is making progress in his rehab program. Roberts, who was at the game, has been doing baseball activities at the Orioles' complex in Sarasota, Florida