Orioles drop ninth in 10 games, sink three games under .500 with 4-3 loss to Rangers

The Orioles lost more ground in the playoff race as their free fall continued Saturday.

The Orioles knew their seven-game road trip to Kansas City and Texas this week could make or break their playoff hopes.

With one game remaining on this disastrous trek, broken seems like a fitting word.

Behind a shaky Ubaldo Jimenez and a sputtering offense, the Orioles lost, 4-3, to the Texas Rangers Saturday night before an announced 29,768 at Globe Life Park.

It was the ninth loss in 10 games for the Orioles (63-66), who have won just once in six chances on this road trip. They now have as many defeats this year with 33 games to play than they did all of last season when they were 96-66 and won the American League East.

That 2014 club is beginning to seem more and more like a distant memory.

"We have pretty much the same team, everybody’s back," Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce said. "We just haven’t caught fire. We had a good run earlier this year and then we followed it right with a bad run. We still have one more month of baseball. And it’s got to start tomorrow. We’ve got to turn this thing around. And we know we are capable of doing it. I think we’ve got the right guys for it."

On Saturday, the Orioles fell to three games under .500 for the first time since July 24 while free-falling to 4½ games behind the Rangers (67-61) for the second AL wild card.

“We’ve lost one-run games. Don’t get me wrong -- we’re playing against teams that are great, teams that are battling, teams that hopefully are going to be in the playoffs," Orioles third baseman Manny Machado said. "I mean, it’s not easy. We’re just one hit away, one out away. It’s part of baseball. We’ve still got [33] games to get back in this. I mean, I've got faith in this team, and we all trust each other that we’re going to get where we need to get to. We’re not worried about this.

"Nobody wants to lose. I think we’re just one good game away from starting a nice streak, and going where we need to go."

At least the Orioles stayed in Saturday's loss until the ninth, getting two runners on with one out against Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson. But a fielder’s choice groundout by Ryan Flaherty and a strikeout by Machado ended the threat, with Tolleson picking up his 28th save.

After thinking he had checked his swing on the last strike, Machado’s frustration boiled over as he slammed his helmet down and began screaming at home plate umpire David Rackley, who did not ask for help from the first base umpire on the call.

“You’ve got to ask there, situation of the game," Machado said. "Changes the whole at-bat, but just we ask them. You’ve got to check. You’ve got to check on that. You can’t [not ask] in a game like that. That’s not supposed to be ended, but whatever, you can’t do [anything] about it now.”

It was just a bad inning in another difficult loss.

Attempting to recapture his fine first-half form, Jimenez was in trouble starting with the first batter he faced, yielding a leadoff triple to Delino DeShields.

It sort of set the theme of the night for Jimenez, who continually fought through jams aided by some Texas miscues. Ultimately, it caught up to Jimenez (9-9).

The Rangers didn’t score in the first, partially because DeShields broke toward home on a comebacker to Jimenez and was thrown out in a rundown. In the second inning, the Rangers had two runners on and didn’t score. In the fourth, the Rangers made all three outs at second base: A runner ran into a fair popup, a forceout caused by a ball dropped in the outfield and a putout when a runner tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt.

In the third, though, the Rangers capitalized on Jimenez’s shakiness. Shin-Soo Choo doubled to score DeShields, who had singled. And Adrian Beltre added a two-run homer into the Orioles bullpen in left-center for a 3-0 Rangers lead.

Jimenez wouldn’t give up another run until the sixth, his final inning. After getting the first two outs, Jimenez allowed a triple to Elvis Andrus and, after an intentional walk, was replaced by rookie Mychal Givens.

Bobby Wilson doubled on Givens’ first pitch to score Andrus and give the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Jimenez was charged with four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings, the fourth consecutive start in which he has failed to pitch at least six innings.

"It’s not like I couldn’t hold onto it [to get through the sixth]," Jimenez said. "It’s just things that happen in the game. I gave up a triple. It could happen to anyone, but those are the kinds of things we are going through right now. In another situation, we’d probably get the third out right there and get out of the inning. But everything is just going the other way."

After posting a 2.81 ERA over 17 starts before the All-Star break, Jimenez has posted a 7.50 ERA in nine starts since. He has allowed 40 earned runs in 48 second-half innings.

The Orioles offense, which has scored three runs or fewer in nine of their past 10 games, all losses, didn’t have a hit against Texas lefty Martin Perez until Adam Jones’ two-out single in the fourth inning.

Finally, the moribund Orioles offense broke through in the fifth with three runs, the first time they’ve scored at least three runs in an inning in over a week -- dating to the sixth on Aug. 21, against the Minnesota Twins.

Pearce led off the fifth with a solo homer, his ninth of the season and second since coming off the disabled list Monday.

With one out, Caleb Joseph singled and Dariel Alvarez doubled, the Cuban outfielder’s first hit in his fifth at-bat as a major leaguer.

Paul Janish’s sacrifice fly gave the veteran shortstop his first RBI as an Oriole and Machado followed with an RBI single to tie the score at 3-3.

"We all started swinging the bats and we all thought we had the momentum on our side and Wilson delivered a big hit the next inning," Pearce said. "So it kind of cooled us down a little bit." 

Perez (2-3), who entered with a 5.30 ERA, hung on for the win, lasting 6 1/3 innings and yielding three runs on seven hits and no walks to send the Orioles to their latest loss.

With their season spiraling, the Orioles' mood is understandable.

"They are frustrated," manager Buck Showalter said. "So, there’s one way to take that frustration away." 

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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