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Orioles still searching for offense

BALTIMORE - The Orioles got away with it this past weekend against Washington, thanks to strong pitching and a few timely hits.

But in order to keep winning and stay in contention in the AL East, Baltimore (41-31) likely needs to start producing runs like it did a few weeks ago. Particularly with Los Angeles coming to town for a brief two-game series, and the Angels taking a pair of aces to the mound.

C.J. Wilson (8-4, 2.44 ERA) and Jered Weaver (7-1, 2.40) are the expected starters today and Wednesday against an Orioles squad yearning for a breakout game at the plate.

Yes, they took two of three from the Nationals, but the Orioles scored a grand total of five runs in the process. If not for a couple of key hits - J.J. Hardy's RBI double in the sixth on Friday; Matt Wieters' two-run home run in the eighth on Sunday - the Birds could have been staring at a six-game losing streak dating back to last week and three shutout defeats along the way.

Baltimore stranded eight runners Sunday against the Nats and was 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. For the series, the Orioles were 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

After scoring 12 runs on 16 hits on June 14 against Pittsburgh, the Orioles have 17 runs in their last nine games. They're batting .185 over that span.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said pressing at the plate is commonplace when the team is mired in such a stretch and runs are hard to come by.

"They're trying to get it all back in one at-bat. That's human nature," Showalter said before Sunday's game. "Obviously it's got a lot to do with the pitching. We've faced good pitching this year before. We've been in these baseball games because our guys are pitching well."

The Angels (40-33) have leaned on Wilson and Weaver all season. Signed as free agent in the offseason, Wilson is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in June (four starts) and hasn't lost since May 17.

After that, the Halos go with Weaver, who recently came off the disabled list and tossed six scoreless innings in a win over San Francisco. Weaver threw a no-hitter on May 2 against Minnesota.

Facing quality starters such as Wilson and Weaver will be a challenge, which is why the Orioles would like nothing more than an offensive burst as soon as possible.

"A lot of managers and general managers are looking for guys with track records, so when they go through some of these periods you know that eventually they're going to revert [back] to it," Showalter said. "What usually happens, in my experiences, is you get a couple swinging bunts and a couple broken-bat flares, and everything all of a sudden falls into place.

"But it's a hard thing. You don't go in a cage and work on swinging bunts and flaring the ball. You're trying to make consistent contact, you can't guide the ball."

Perhaps Wieters' big blast Sunday afternoon was a turning point. His 10th homer of the season came in the clutch - the O's trailed 1-0 in the eighth - and helped Baltimore raise its record in one- or two-run games to 24-12.

Wieters and his teammates are hoping for a few more big flies and extra-base hits to get things going.

"The faster the ball comes off your bat, the less time they have to react to defending it," Showalter said.

"That's really what you're trying to do. Or if you can hit enough balls where they can't put defenders, which is over the fence, that works too."

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