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Orioles blow late lead, chance at sweep in 3-2 loss to Angels on Wednesday night

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn’t interested in sympathetic numbers following his team’s 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.

The Orioles will head Thursday to Safeco Field, the last stop on their three-city, 10-game West Coast road trip, with a 3-3 record heading into the final four games against the Seattle Mariners.

But given the fact that the Orioles took a one-run lead into the eighth inning Wednesday, Showalter wanted to leave Angel Stadium of Anaheim having handed the Angels their first home sweep since the first series of the season. Instead, Los Angeles rallied for its major league-leading 31st comeback win.

“You come out here and try to win 10,” Showalter said. “We don’t do math. We don’t do percentages or anything. You post up, and you play, and you try to win a nine-inning game. Every day is another opportunity.

“Our guys don’t look at it like any moral victory to win two of three here. We had a shot at three. You turn the page and now we go and play four more games against another really good team out here.”

Entering a tied game with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth, left-hander Brian Matusz allowed the winning run by walking Kole Calhoun, the Orioles’ sixth walk of the night and third of the inning (one was intentional).

With the loss, the Orioles (55-45) reached the 100-game mark 10 games over .500 and are now three games up on the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees, who both won Wednesday, for the American League East division lead.

The loss wasted a fine starting effort from right-hander Chris Tillman, an Orange County native who went to high school 15 minutes away from the ballpark in Anaheim. Tillman battled through six innings, allowing just one run and five hits to record his eighth quality start in his last nine outings. He is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in three career starts in Anaheim.

“They’ve got a good lineup,” Tillman said. “They are going to battle, all night long. All series long, it never felt like you had the game in hand. They grinded me out tonight, put some real good at-bats together.”

The Angels (60-40) were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position on the night and 0-for-9 against Tillman.

Tillman left with a 2-1 lead, but the Orioles bullpen ran into trouble in the eighth.

After retiring the Angels in order in the seventh inning, right-hander Tommy Hunter allowed a leadoff, broken-bat single to Josh Hamilton, which was followed by Erick Aybar’s game-tying double into the left-center field gap.

Hunter nearly escaped the inning after that, striking out Howie Kendrick and David Freese. But the Orioles’ decision to intentionally walk Efren Navarro with first base open backfired.

Hunter then walked No. 9 hitter Chris Iannetta to load the bases.

“I threw pitches where I wanted to throw them,” Hunter said of the plate appearance against Iannetta. “I guess [stuff] happens.”

Showalter then went to the left-handed-throwing Matusz to face the left-handed-hitting Calhoun. But Matusz, unable to get a low strike call from home plate umpire Hal Gibson III, walked Calhoun on five pitches to score Aybar and give the Angels a 3-2 lead.

“It’s an issue like expansion baseball,” Showalter said. “When you expand, you have a lot of players in the big leagues who normally wouldn’t be there. [Gibson] was pretty consistent until late in the game. He’ll get better. He’s got a good attitude and a heart of fire. … That didn’t beat us, but I see the same thing you all do.”

Angels starter Jered Weaver (11-6) held the Orioles in check, allowing two runs and six hits in eight innings, striking out six batters and walking none. Newly acquired trade acquisition  Huston Street then tossed a scoreless ninth for the save.

Center fielder Adam Jones -- who has driven in 10 runs through the first six games of the road trip, including seven on home runs -- helped the homer-happy Orioles manufacture a run for the lead.

In the sixth inning, with David Lough on second base, Jones slapped a 2-2 pitch from Weaver the opposite way for a bloop single into shallow right field to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

Lough hit a two-out single to right field, then stole his sixth base of the season to put himself in scoring position for Jones. Making his first start since June 27, Lough had two hits Wednesday.

Tillman managed to prevent damage throughout the night after allowing an RBI single to  Albert Pujols in the bottom of the first inning that scored Mike Trout from first base, stranding seven base runners from that point, including runners at second and third bases twice.

“He’s been carrying good stuff all year,” Showalter said of Tillman. “I thought he was crisp from the get-go. Command was there, curveball command, changeup, slider. He had a nice mix.”

After gaining a 2-1 lead, Tillman put two runners on with no outs in the sixth inning, hitting Aybar with a pitch and allowing a single to Kendrick.

But Tillman struck out Freese looking and then got a heads-up defensive play from second baseman Jonathan Schoop on Navarro’s sharp grounder to first base.

First baseman Chris Davis was unable to backhand the shorthop off Navarro’s bat. The ball deflected over to Schoop, who threw Navarro out at first base for the second out, likely saving a run. Tillman then induced a flyout from Iannetta to end the inning and strand two runners in scoring position.

He put two on with two outs in the second inning after back-to-back singles by Iannetta and Calhoun, but with Trout at the plate, Tillman picked Iannetta off second base with an inside move that ended the inning.

The Orioles tied the game at 1 in the third inning on Nick Markakis’ two-out RBI single that scored  Ryan Flaherty, who reached on a one-out, ground-rule double.

With closer Zach Britton unavailable after having pitched four of the previous five days, Showalter had to adjust his bullpen, which likely forced Hunter to pitch a second inning.

“We had to push everybody up a spot or two,” Showalter said. “It was a challenge.”

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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