LOS ANGELES — As the Orioles made their first trip to Dodger Stadium in 12 years, Monday's series opener played out like a predictable Hollywood script.
The O's offense did its job, handing starter Yovani Gallardo a pair of early three-run leads against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the veteran right-hander kept giving runs back.
And while the Orioles bullpen ended up yielding the game in a 7-5 loss to the Dodgers in front of an announced 47,378, there was no question it was the starting rotation's continuing struggles that were to blame.
"They came right back and scored," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. We've done that to other teams. We still had a lead going in there. Kept hoping Yovani would find his step there a little bit. He had some good sequences. Just couldn't string it together. I was surprised. I expected him to be a little bit crisper tonight."
The Orioles, who have made just one previous interleague trip here in 2004, have lost all four regular-season games at Dodger Stadium and haven't won here since Oct. 6, 1966 in Game 2 of their 1966 World Series victory.
This year's Orioles (47-35) have now lost a season-high five games straight and lead the Boston Red Sox by just two games in the American League East standings.
"We're still not at the All-Star break yet, so we have a lot of baseball to play," catcher Matt Wieters said. "The big thing is trying to fix what's going wrong and just working and moving forward. We know that the answer is going to come in here in this clubhouse and it's just a matter of getting there."
Gallardo lasted just four innings, allowing nine baserunners (six hits and three walks) and becoming the third straight Orioles starting pitcher to fail to get through five innings. Over their past four games, Orioles starters have accounted for just 22 innings and allowed 25 runs over that span.
Seven games through their nine-game West Coast road trip, the Orioles rotation owns a 7.91 ERA.
"It's frustrating," Gallardo said. "Obviously we're not the pitching the way that we have been throughout the year. It is one of those things that, we understand we'll have those stretches through the year. … We're going to turn it around. We have to rely on each other for one of us to step up and go deep in the ballgame to get that victory. It hasn't been a good five days for us, just the staff in general. We just have to stay positive and keep going forward."
His early exit forced the Orioles bullpen -- already without set-up man Darren O'Day, who will remain on the disabled list until at least the All-Star break -- into overtime work on the Fourth of July, an increasingly common and equally dangerous occurrence.
Right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh when Justin Turner's sacrifice fly to left followed Corey Seager's leadoff triple down the right-field line, giving the Dodgers a 6-5 lead.
The tying run off Despaigne – who allowed six baserunners (three hits, three walks) and three runs over 2 1/3 innings – came after a questionable balk call that placed Will Venable in scoring position at second base. That set the stage for a two-out single by Chase Utley that made the score 5-5.
"The balk call obviously wasn't a balk," Showalter said. "I don't know where that came from. It kind of came out of the air. Kind of over-officiating something that's not there. That's a big call. Better be 100 percent sure before you make that. But that didn't beat us."
Gallardo can't dodge trouble
Gallardo was given a three-run lead going into the bottom of the second inning, but yielded back-to-back solo homers to Yasiel Puig and Yasmani Grandal to open the inning.
"I think the one to Grandal was just a mistake," said Gallardo, whose start Monday was his second shortest of the season behind the April 22 outing in which he left after two innings with shoulder fatigue. "I tried to throw it up and in, a mistake. That can't happen. The one to Puig, I wasn't aggressive behind it. I kind of threw it in there for a strike … [it wasn't] a put-away pitch. The most important thing, limiting those walks. Those walks are never good.
"Whatever I've got to do to get right out of the gate and get away from that and just get ahead of that first guy and put away that leadoff guy."
He was able to escape further damage that inning, but after he was given a 5-2 cushion in the fourth, Gallardo allowed a pair of two-out run-scoring singles to Utley and Seager. He also threw two wild pitches that inning, each one putting runners in scoring position.
Gallardo, who left the game after four innings and 95 pitches, has just one quality start – he allowed three runs in six innings in his last outing Wednesday in San Diego – in eight outings.
"I had to battle from the first hitter on," Gallardo said. "I was falling behind guys, and it's hard. It's hard to pitch at this level having to do that. Just wasn't consistent. I got some big strikeouts to get out of some jams, walked the next hitter. It just can't happen especially when guys put runs on the board early in the game. You've got to put up zeros."
Hardy's double dose
Shortstop J.J. Hardy hit a pair of doubles on Monday, including a two-run double into the right-center field gap that gave the Orioles a 2-0 second-inning lead.
Hardy outlasted Dodgers rookie left-hander Julio Arias with a 10-pitch at bat, slapping a 95-mph fastball the other way for extra bases. He scored on Adam Jones' two-out single to put the Orioles up 3-0.
He also hit a double in the fourth inning, putting runners at second and third with no outs, and scored on Joey Rickard's two-run single to give the Orioles a 5-2 lead.
Hardy is 5-for-12 with five RBIs over his last three games.