Orioles right-hander Freddy Garcia’s formula for success lies in staying ahead of hitters and keeping them off balance by mixing speeds while locating his pitches.
Without the blazing fastball that has faded by way of wear, the 14-year veteran must now pitch with finesse instead of flash. And when the 36-year-old Garcia’s pitches start to gravitate up and toward the middle of the plate, it can lead to a short day.
That was the case Wednesday afternoon, when Garcia failed to get out of the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres — the team that cut him late in spring training — sending the Orioles on the path to an 8-4 interleague loss in front of an announced of 32,418 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (23-17), who have displayed a remarkable ability to rebound from losses, dropped consecutive games for just the fourth time this season, losing both games of this brief two-game series to a Padres team that is three games under .500.
San Diego (18-21) launched a 17-hit attack against Wednesday, the most the Orioles have allowed in a game this season.
In his third start with the Orioles, Garcia (0-2) lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with two walks and one strikeout.
“It happens,” Garcia said. “Sometimes I don’t have the feeling with my pitches and I get in trouble. If I don’t throw strikes, I end up getting into problems. … I was behind guys all day long. I need to pitch better, and I need to be ahead in the count. I need to hit my spot, and today wasn’t my day. I was behind in the count all day long.”
Garcia hasn’t been able to duplicate the success of his Orioles debut, when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning May 4 in Anaheim. Since then, Garcia is pitching to a 7.45 ERA, allowing eight earned runs and three homers in 9 2/3 innings.
For an Orioles starting staff with two pitchers — right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (thumb blister) and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (right oblique strain) — on the disabled list, Garcia’s struggles add to the rotation’s troubles. It could become increasingly problematic as the team begins a stretch of 17 games in 17 days on Friday.
“I try not to get into that world, but it’s easy to,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m also realistic. It is a challenge for us, [just] like it was last year when we had guys go down and like other clubs that have had a challenge, too. So it’s opportunity for some people to kind of step forward for us and pitch well and establish themselves as somebody that we can count on.”
Six of the first 10 San Diego batters reached base against Garcia on Wednesday, and the Padres jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run, two-out single by No. 9 hitter John Baker, who didn’t have an RBI in his first 26 at-bats this season.
“They had a good approach to him today, and to all our guys,” Showalter said. “They were patient on the right guys and aggressive on the other ones. You tip your hat to them, but we’ve got to pitch better.”
Five of the Padres’ eight runs — including three of the four charged to Garcia — came with two outs.
Garcia left the game trailing 3-1 in the fourth with two on and two out. Earlier in the inning, he allowed a solo homer to Kyle Blanks. Another run came in to score on Will Venable’s RBI double off reliever T.J. McFarland.
The Orioles got solo homers from J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters to lead of the second and fourth innings, respectively, but wasted several early scoring opportunities against Padres strarter Jason Marquis (5-2).
Wieters stranded the bases loaded in the first inning with a ground out to shortstop, and the Orioles killed budding rallies in the second and fifth by grounding into inning-ending double plays — both on first-pitch swings.
“We had some chances to score and couldn't quite get it done,” Wieters said. “I could have broken the game open in the first and just couldn't quite get the big hit there. But it's going to happen, and we'll have to be ready to go when we come back on Friday.”
Leading 5-2, San Diego took advantage of two Orioles fielding miscues through the middle innings. With two outs in the sixth, second baseman Ryan Flaherty lost Carlos Quentin’s pop up in the sun and it dropped for a single, allowing Everth Cabrera to score.
And in the seventh, Tommy Hunter’s throwing error on Blanks’ grounder to the left of the mound came back to haunt him when the next batter, Alexi Amarista, hit a two-run homer to give the Padres a 7-2 lead.
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Hunter had turned in 10 straight scoreless appearances heading into the day, a streak dating back to April 12.
The Orioles’ bright spot of the afternoon was Manny Machado, who tied a career-high with four hits and set a new career-high with three doubles. Machado has 17 doubles this season, tying him with Boston’s Mike Napoli for the major league lead.
Machado, who has hit safely in 20 of his past 22 games, ended the game leading the majors in hits (59), one ahead of Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. Machado also recorded his team-high 18th multi-hit game, which ties Kansas City’s Alex Gordon and Cabrera for the major league lead.
He has also had at least three hits in four of his past five games and has 13 multi-hit games in his last 21 contests, hitting .419 (39-for-93) with 16 extra-base hits (12 doubles, a triple and three homers) in that span.
Hardy’s second-inning homer extended his hitting streak to 11 games, tying him with Machado for the longest streak by an Oriole this season.