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O's held scoreless after first, Phillies halt skid at nine with 2-1 win

Usually when the Orioles can't hit a journeyman starter and lose a one-run game to a vastly inferior team, there's at least an undercurrent of disappointment in their clubhouse.

That wasn't there at all Thursday after the Orioles' 2-1 loss to the reeling Philadelphia Phillies, who halted their season-worst nine-game skid.

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The Orioles (34-32) have won nine of their past 11, have taken 11 of 14 and had beaten the Phillies three straight before Thursday's stumble in front of an announced 26,220 at Citizens Bank Park.

"Honestly, I don't think anybody is thinking about this loss," said Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has an 11-game hitting streak. "I think we're all kind of focusing on now, the positive stuff. And we're going to continue moving forward with that."

That's not to say they didn't want to sweep the Phillies (23-45) and head to Toronto to face the surging American League East-rival Blue Jays on a winning note.

"Somebody asked me before we got started if we could take three out of four [from Philadelphia] and sign up for it. No. It's not because of Philadelphia. It's anybody," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You try to play every game [well] when you're playing good baseball like we are. We like to take our chances. There's a real fine margin of error there."

The Orioles had won their previous four games in Philadelphia — a three-game sweep in 2009 and Wednesday's 6-4 victory. Their last loss at Citizens Bank Park before Thursday occurred in 2004, the stadium's first season.

And in their previous three meetings this week, including two at Camden Yards, the Orioles had outscored the Phillies 29-7.

That trend looked like it would continue with the fifth pitch of Thursday's game, when leadoff hitter Manny Machado hammered a 91-mph fastball from Sean O'Sullivan into the right-field seats for a 1-0 lead. It was the Orioles' 11th home run in a span of 18 innings against Phillies pitching.

With the blast, Machado tied Chris Davis for the team lead in home runs with 14. It was the club's fourth leadoff homer of 2015, and the third by Machado, who is nine away from the franchise's season record of 12 set by Brady Anderson in 1996.

Machado's homer was the extent of the Orioles' offense against O'Sullivan — who entered Thursday with a career 5.76 ERA in parts of six big league seasons — and four Phillies relievers. The Orioles had just six hits in the game and left eight on base, going hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.

O'Sullivan "battled his way through it," Showalter said. "You get guys with his background, you know they've got some backbone to them and he showed that."

Conversely, Orioles right-hander Bud Norris flirted with danger initially, allowing base runners in each of his first four innings. But he carried a shutout into the sixth. It disappeared with one pitch, a 95-mph fastball to Ryan Howard that the slugger crushed to right-center for a two-run homer that ultimately gave the Phillies their first victory since June 7.

"In the past couple of games, I made one mistake with the fastball deeper in the game," said Norris (2-5), who allowed five hits and two walks in six innings and lowered his season ERA to 7.57. "It's hard to get in that situation, but I know I can make those pitches to execute and get out of it. So I need to build off it and execute a little better in that situation."

Norris would like to have that pitch back. And the Orioles would like to have a four-game winning streak. But given that they were six games under .500 on June 3, no one's complaining about one close loss.

"You play six months for a reason, and some close ballgames here and there can really [change] your season," Norris said. "We're really trying to catch our stride right now. We feel we're in the thick of this thing in the AL East. We've got a tough series in Toronto. We have to get after it."

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Even with the loss, the Orioles have the same record as they did through 66 games last year — and they went on to win 96 games and the division title. That's not lost on this group.

"We've got a lot of guys who've been around for a little bit, and we have a good group in here, so we're excited and we want to get building on it," Norris said.

"We want to play really good baseball. We're capable of that. So we've got a good group and a loose group, and if we win, we're a happy group."

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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