Saunders shaky in first start with Orioles

BALTIMORE - Joe Saunders' Baltimore Orioles career did not get off to a very good start Wednesday, to say the least.

The left-handed starter, acquired by Baltimore on Sunday, gave up four runs in the first inning, and the Orioles fell 8-1 to Chicago before 13,098 fans at Camden Yards.

On the second pitch of the game, Saunders (0-1) gave up a single to Dewayne Wise and the inning got worse from there. Alex Rios hit a two-run double to right-center and Alexei Ramirez hit a two-run single to right in the inning, putting Baltimore in an early hole.

The Orioles have struggled in the first inning this season, being outscored 80-48, and Wednesday was no exception.

"I was making good pitches," Saunders said. "I had a little adrenaline going there but I just told myself before the game, 'Try to be yourself and try not to do too much in your first game,' but I felt like my one bad pitch was to Rios. Things just didn't go my way in the first inning."

Saunders exited the game with one out in the sixth and runners on second and third, who both came into score on a two-run single to center by Gordon Beckham off Kevin Gregg. Saunders was charged with seven runs, six of them earned.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he thought Saunders showed what he was able to do well at times, and has confidence in him that he will be a factor for the team in September.

"He'll be better," Showalter said. "I thought the second, third, fourth, you could see what he is capable of. He's working to get back into rhythm and schedule. ... [He's] a guy that's had success and he'll contribute here."

Beckham and Ramirez both collected three hits, and combined for four RBIs, as they led Chicago (72-57) to 12 hits. Saunders had not pitched since Aug. 20 with Arizona, when he was rocked for nine runs on 12 hits by the Marlins, but he said he did not feel any rust.

"I tried to keep myself as sharp as I could," Saunders said. "Like I said, it just didn't go my way there in the first, and I think that was pretty much the game, as it ended up. ... [I've] got to turn the page quick and look forward to my next start."

Baltimore (71-58) plated its lone run on an Omar Quintanilla sacrifice fly in the fourth, and the Orioles lineup struggled against White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod (2-2). Axelrod threw 7 1-3 innings, giving up just one run on three hits.

"Anytime you can command two breaking balls and have that type of confidence in them, you're going to have a chance," Showalter said. "Especially when you've got a little lead to work with where you create some aggressiveness in hitters. You've really got to be patient with him because you're going to see a steady dose of different type of breaking balls."

It was Axelrod's longest outing of his major-league career, and also the fewest hits he has given up in a start. After hitting Chris Davis with a pitch in the in fourth, Axelrod retired the next 13 batters he faced, and the Orioles did not record a hit after Matt Wieters doubled to lead off the fourth.

"He was really tough," Davis said. "We knew what we had ahead of us going into the game, wasn't going to overpower us with anything, liked his slider a lot, but he mixed it up, changed speeds and he pounded the strike zone. You've got to tip your hat to him."

The Orioles remained 3 1/2 games behind first-place New York in the AL East, but fell a game behind Oakland in the wild card standings. Baltimore still has a half-game lead over Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot.

On Wednesday however, the Orioles could not sustain a rally against Axelrod, or silence Chicago's bats.

"They came out swinging the bats well," Davis said, "gave [Axelrod] a nice lead, and he didn't really need much tonight."

NOTES: Showalter said before the game that Orioles top prospect Dylan Bundy will go to the fall instructional league when his season ends at Class-AA Bowie in September, and will not be joining the Orioles. ... Wieters committed his 10th error of the season in the fourth inning, after only committing five in each of the first three seasons of his career. ... Saunders' loss was his first at Camden Yards in his career, after entering the game 3-0 in Baltimore.

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