The Orioles had plenty of opportunities to make left-hander Wei-Yin Chen's rocky sixth inning not matter Saturday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants.
While Chen held up his end for five innings — holding the defending World Champion Giants scoreless and limiting them to one hit — the one-run lead his teammates gave him wasn't enough.
And with regular-season games beginning to dwindle and the Orioles paying attention to the standings more closely, they realize they can't waste quality pitching performances.
And that's what made the Orioles' 3-2 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park so frustrating.
Despite Davis' majors-leading 42nd homer of the season — a solo shot in the eighth that is believed to be the longest of his career — the Orioles (64-52) stranded 10 base runners on the afternoon and were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“When you're not coming up with those big hits early in the game, guys on with less than two outs, it makes you work even harder down the stretch of the game,” said catcher Taylor Teagarden, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and five men left on base. “This team is obviously capable of scoring more than two runs a game. It makes things a little harder on your pitching staff because they've got to keep it close so you have a shot. You've got to bear down and get those runs in earlier.”
Chen (6-5) recorded his sixth quality start in as many outings since returning from the disabled list July 10, including losses in each of his past two starts. In Chen's past 38 starts, the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs 25 times.
The Orioles dropped the middle game of their three-game series in San Francisco in front of an announced 41,315, snapping their three-game winning streak and suffering their first loss on their three-city, eight-game interleague road trip through the National League West.
After beating the Giants in 10 innings Friday night, fueled by a big two-out, two-run double by Davis in extra innings, the Orioles couldn't manufacture much offense.
“I think that's the way the series has been so far,” Davis said of the tight games here. “Every little run helps. I know their record doesn't say it, but they're a good team. Anytime you come in here you're going to have a battle on your hands. That's the reason they've won the World Series the last few years. They know how to win. Keep your head up and go get them tomorrow.”
Chen appeared well on his way to his fourth win in five decisions since coming off the disabled list. Chen allowed just one hit through his first five innings of work before San Francisco rallied with a decisive three-run sixth inning.
“I felt like today was not my day,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “They were really aggressive the first five innings and they watched me pitch for five innings already and were really patient in the sixth inning. They just kept waiting and waiting for my fastball and trying to hit my fastball.”
He had retired 13 straight San Francisco hitters until allowing a leadoff bloop single to Andres Torres to open the sixth inning. After Gregor Blanco's sacrifice bunt moved Torres to second, leadoff hitter Marco Scutaro's RBI single tied the game at 1.
After Brandon Belt's ground-rule double one-hopped into the right-center-field stands to put runners at second and third, the Orioles intentionally walked Buster Posey to face Hunter Pence.
But Pence made the Orioles pay, slapping an opposite-field double down the right-field line to give the Giants a 3-1 lead.
Chen, who had gone seven or more innings in each of his previous three starts, went just six Saturday, removed by a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh. He allowed three runs on five hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
“He was good just about the entire outing,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Chen. “Just when we get out to that 1-0, 2-0 lead like we had, would be nice to be able to expand it a little bit, but they are pitching well, too. … Their bullpen did a nice job. We had some good situations, just didn't cash the ticket.”
The Orioles had their opportunities to break through against the Giants (52-64). They had the bases loaded with one out after a Nick Markakis single and back-to-back walks to J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty, but Giants starter Chad Gaudin struck out Teagarden and induced an inning-ending ground out from Chen.
Baltimore was also unable to score after placing runners at first and second with no outs when Adam Jones and Markakis led off the sixth with back-to-back singles.
The Orioles managed just four hits in five innings against Gaudin, their only run scored against him on a sacrifice fly by Jones in the third.
Showalter said the Orioles were the beneficiary of some friendly ball-strike calls from home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor early in the game.
“We were fortunate we had a lot of borderline pitches with Gaudin go our way,” Showalter said. “That could have not even had those situations. But you still want to cash in on them over the course of a game. … We got the game in some situations where we liked our chances. We just weren't able to get it done [Saturday] compared to [Friday] night.”
Chen also said he struggled with Bucknor's strike zone.
“It was a little hard for me to adjust to the umpire's strike zone,” Chen said. “The first five innings I felt like I could keep the ball down but the sixth inning I felt like everything was up. So it was a little hard for me.”
Davis opened the eighth inning with a mammoth solo blast to center field, taking a 1-0 pitch from right-hander Santiago Casilla about 15 rows deep into the outfield bleachers for his majors-leading 109th RBI of the season. The shot was calculated to be 466 feet, according to ESPN Stats and Information, which is the longest measured homer of his major league career.
Markakis and Hardy then followed with back-to-back one-out singles, but Casilla struck out Flaherty looking and pinch hitter Matt Wieters swung through a breaking ball to end the inning.
“Not quite enough,” Davis said of his homer. “Chen pitched a really good game. … I thought we put some good swings on some pitches. It plays big but you've got to be able to put runs across the board other than hitting balls out of the ballpark.”
The Orioles had the tying run at first with no outs in the ninth against Giants closer Sergio Romo after pinch hitter Henry Urrutia slapped a leadoff single to left. But Romo retired the final three Orioles batters of the game, closing out the game by getting Davis on a ground out to second.
“I think any time you have runners on, especially with our lineup, you expect somebody to come through with a big hit,” Davis said. “Their pitchers made pitches and they made plays and that's the way this series has gone so far. Every little run has been hard earned and they've been few and far between.”
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