When the Orioles aggressively pursued and traded for right-hander Scott Feldman on July 2, weeks before the nonwaiver trade deadline, it was because the veteran had shown strong control and had eaten innings for the Chicago Cubs.
In three of his first four starts for the Orioles, Feldman was as advertised, walking two or fewer and lasting six or more innings.
But in the Orioles' 8-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of an announced 35,231 at Camden Yards — a game in which Buck Showalter marked his third-year anniversary managing the club by getting ejected in the seventh — Feldman failed to make it to the sixth inning for the second consecutive start.
“A lot of times, throughout the course of a season, you are not going to have your best command every time out,” said Feldman, who has allowed nine runs over his last 9 2/3innings. “Unfortunately, I've had two in a row like that. But I'm confident that if I just keep working hard I will figure it out.”
On Saturday, Feldman lasted just 4 2/3 innings, his shortest stint since April 11, when he pitched 4 1/3 with the Cubs. He walked four batters Saturday for just the first time since his season opener on April 5; he had walked just six in five previous games as an Oriole.
“Just command issues,” Showalter said of Feldman's troubles. “We were fortunate; they could have scored a lot more runs.”
It was obvious from the first inning that Feldman couldn't locate his pitches. He faced 25 batters and 11 reached base safely, including the first two of his outing. He started 12 of his 25 hitters with balls and he went to three-ball counts eight times. In four of his five innings, the leadoff batter reached base.
“It's pretty basic. I was really falling behind on everybody and walking guys and just no command of the baseball,” said Feldman, who was charged with five earned runs and is now 2-3 with a 5.70 ERA in six Orioles starts. “I've got a few days to get that ironed out before my next one and just go from there. But when you are pitching behind and not hitting your spots, it makes pitching a lot tougher.”
Showalter said he's not concerned about Feldman, who does have three quality starts with the Orioles.
“Scotty's better than that. He'll figure it out. He's a smart, young man, very athletic. Just missing,” Showalter said. “There were a lot of borderline pitches that didn't quite go his way.”
Showalter attempted to jump start his team by taking on one of those borderline pitches called a strike by home plate umpire Larry Vanover against Nick Markakis in the seventh.
Showalter barked his protest from the dugout and Vanover immediately tossed him — Showalter's second ejection of the season and 26th of his career. Showalter stormed out of the dugout and, red-faced, screamed at Vanover for several minutes.
“I know my player pretty well. Nick doesn't argue unless he knows he's right,” Showalter said. “It was one pitch. There were probably 200 or 300 pitches seen tonight, so that would be too easy to jump on. We had a lot of other things go on tonight that we've got to do better. We made a lot more mistakes than [Vanover] did.”
The tirade seemed to inspire his team, which was trailing, 6-2, at the time. Markakis singled and Adam Jones followed with a double to chase Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez (3-0), who had allowed solo homers to Manny Machado and Matt Wieters and no other hits up to that point.
Chris Davis hit a sacrifice fly against Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush, who also allowed an RBI single from Wieters before getting the two final outs of the inning.
Showalter's hitters had another chance in the eighth, with the go-ahead run at the plate, but reliever Danny Farquhar got Jones to fly out to end the threat. And in the ninth, Seattle outfielder Michael Saunders hit his second homer of the game — this one against Darren O'Day in the top of the ninth — to give him five RBIs on the night and put the game out of reach. It was the fifth home run hit Saturday and the 12th in the first two games of the series.
Farquhar pitched a perfect ninth for his first career save.
The Orioles (61-50) now have lost seven of their last 11 after winning four straight to start the second half. The Mariners (51-59) ended a four-game losing streak and have won just three of their past 10 after posting a season-high eight straight victories. They'll play Sunday in the series' rubber match.
There were some bright spots for the Orioles. Machado hit his 40th double of the season in the eighth — his first since July 6. It's just the 15th time a player 21 or younger has reached 40 doubles in a season since 1901.
Steve Johnson, in his first outing since June 5 due to a strained oblique, pitched a scoreless inning. He was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game; a corresponding move will be made before Sunday's game.
Wieters homered in the second inning to break an 0-for-25 skid and also was in the middle of a bizarre double play in the eighth when Raul Ibanez singled to right with two runners on base. Nick Franklin should have scored easily from second, but he hesitated. Excellent throws from Markakis and Alexi Casilla got Franklin at the plate, and then Wieters threw to first to get Ibanez, who was trying to get back to the bag.
Otherwise, Saturday's loss was marred by some shaky pitching, especially from Feldman, whose performances have been uneven in his brief time with the club.
“Any time you don't feel like you are doing your job it is disappointing,” Feldman said. “But at the same time, [in] baseball, if you hang your head every time something doesn't go your way, you are not going to last too long in this game. Obviously, I want to do better.”
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