Rays nip Orioles in Baltimore slugfest

Kelly Johnson finished 3-for-5 with a three- run homer, four RBI and two runs scored as Tampa Bay withstood a late Baltimore charge and escaped with a 12-10 victory in the opener of a three- game set from Camden Yards.

Yunel Escobar added three hits and drove in three runs, while Desmond Jennings hit safely twice and knocked in a pair for the Rays, who ended a two-game skid and won for the seventh time in nine games overall but not before almost wasting an eight-run advantage.

James Loney and Evan Longoria each recorded a pair of hits, scored twice and knocked in a run for Tampa Bay, which led 12-4 after six innings.

Jeremy Hellickson (2-2) gave up 10 hits and eight runs over 7 2/3 innings, but picked up the win thanks to his club's prolific offense. Joel Peralta retired the final four batters of the contest to earn his first save of the season.

"We've been shaky a couple times and we're kind of getting back to what we really think we can do...save the lead, hold the lead for the guys," Peralta said of the bullpen's struggles of late. "We've been blowing some games so tonight was really special for me."

Chris Dickerson's three-run shot capped a six-run eighth inning for the Orioles, losers of three straight and five of seven. Chris Davis and Matt Wieters each posted two RBI and J.J. Hardy went deep in the narrow defeat.

Jason Hammel (5-2) took the mound bidding for a piece of Orioles history, but was torched for 10 hits and seven runs in just 4 2/3 frames.

"We just haven't made the pitches when we need to," Wieters admitted. "You can look at a lot of different things that we need to do better, but our guys are working hard to get it figured out."

Tampa pushed into double digits with three runs in the sixth courtesy of a Luke Scott sacrifice fly and two-run single from Escobar, and that eight-run spread eventually withered to two.

Nate McLouth tripled to start the eighth and scored on a Manny Machado groundout, then a single and double sandwiched around a fielder's choice groundout put two in scoring position ahead of a Wieters RBI single. Hellickson was pulled for Kyle Farnsworth, and a Hardy single preceded Dickerson's three-run blast which pulled the O's within 12-10.

After Yamaico Navarro singled, Peralta was called on to stop the bleeding and he retired Matt Joyce on a grounder.

Baltimore went quietly in the ninth, on two pop outs and a fly out.

Tampa scratched out a run in the first as Matt Joyce singled with one out, Ben Zobrist doubled and Longoria's fly to right scored Joyce.

Baltimore countered in the home half on a two-out, two-run single from Davis. McLouth (leadoff single) and Machado (double) came in on the hit.

Hardy started the bottom of the second with his eighth homer of the season, but the Rays struck for four more in the third to take the lead again.

Zobrist and Longoria slugged consecutive one-out singles to put runners on the corners, then Loney's sac fly made it 3-2. Scott followed with a walk and Johnson launched a three-run shot to right for a 5-3 game.

The visitors upped their advantage to 9-3 in the fifth, thanks to an RBI single from Johnson, a run-scoring, ground-rule double from Escobar and a two- run single from Jennings.

Navarro's leadoff triple in the home half turned into the O's fourth run of the contest on Machado's groundout.

Game Notes

Tampa Bay improved to 3-4 this year against Baltimore, splitting four games in the Charm City ... With a win tonight, Hammel could have become the first Oriole to go 6-1 or better to start consecutive seasons since Mike Boddicker went 6-1 to start 1985 and 10-1 to start the 1986 season ... Hammel started the 2012 season with a 6-1 mark ... With Friday's defeat, the Orioles have scored 47 runs in seven games (6.7 per game) against the Rays along with 12 homers ... Hardy extended hit streak to 12 games ... Baltimore pitchers surrendered a season-high 17 hits for the second straight contest.