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Orioles continue to struggle at the plate, lose opener of two-game interleague series, 8-1, to Nationals

The Orioles appeared to be getting their act together at the plate in the waning days of the non-mathematical first half of the season, but they clearly have lost some offensive altitude during the first five games since the All-Star break.

They had a couple of promising scoring opportunities early in their 8-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Oriole Park, but could not deliver in five at-bats with runners in scoring position in the first three innings.

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Even one or two clutch hits might have meant a better fate for starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski, who pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowed three runs on six hits and struck out seven batters.

The O’s loaded the bases without a hit with one out in the first inning against Nats starter Austin Voth, but only managed a foul pop out and routine groundout to short. Trey Mancini opened the third inning with a double to snap out of an 0-for-24 slump, then stood at second watching a soft fly ball and a pair of strikeouts.

"We had some chances to score early for (Wojciechowski) and just couldn’t push them across,'' manager Brandon Hyde said. “We had some opportunities to score runs and are not putting the ball in play when we need it. That puts a lot of pressure on your pitching staff to put up zeroes every time out. You give up three runs to (that) club and you’ve done a nice job.”

The Orioles were coming off a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays that featured two blowout losses and a bid for a combined perfect game that was broken up in the ninth inning by Hanser Alberto.

Over the last five games, they have averaged just over two runs per game and allowed just over eight. They’ve been outscored 41-12.

"It’s tough,'' Mancini said. “It’s especially tough that a lot of us are kind of going through it at the same time because, obviously, the offense won’t have the output that we want. A lot of times when it’s one or two guys maybe struggling, the rest of the guys pick them up, but there are quite a few of us that are going through little funks right now and that’s unfortunately what happens in baseball and hopefully we can all break out of it pretty soon here.”

Alberto also got the first Orioles hit on Tuesday night, launching his fifth home run of the season with the bases empty in the second inning. He also singled in the fourth to account for half of the Orioles’ hit total.

He entered the game ranked 10th in the American League with a .303 average and pushed it up to .306 with the multi-hit performance.

Wojciechowski struck out four of the first eight batters he faced, but allowed a long homer to Matt Adams in the second inning for the first run of the the game. He also allowed a run in the third on a two-out RBI double by Anthony Rendon and his final run in the sixth on leadoff shot by Juan Soto.

"I thought I competed pretty well,'' Wojciechowski said. “I’d like to have gotten like three pitches back, but other than that I felt I pitched pretty well. ... There were three mistakes I made there and they all cost us runs.”

Two days after Tom Eshelman pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and walked only one batter, Wojciechowski pitched into the sixth and did not walk anyone, which clearly helped him keep a very good Nationals lineup from putting up any crooked numbers.

"That’s my mindset,'' he said. “I’m going to out there. I’m going to attack hitters. I’m going to compete. I’m going to give it my all every single pitch. That’s what I’m going to do every time I toe the rubber and, yeah, see what happens.”

He left with the game still very much in doubt, but the Nats scored runs off four straight Orioles relievers to turn the game into another rout.

The victory was the eighth by the Nationals in the last nine games against the Orioles, but the O’s still hold the overall lead in the regional interleague rivalry, 39-32.

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