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Orioles

Frustrated Orioles lose to White Sox, 6-1, fall under .500 for first time this season

Chicago — When things are going this badly, there's nowhere on a bare baseball diamond to hide.

So in a 6-1 loss to the White Sox on a mild midweek night at Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field, the Orioles' frustration was laid out for all to see  as they fell below .500 (31-32) for the first time all season and lost for the 11th straight time away from home.

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Most striking was the final pose of Alec Asher, who was left crouched behind the mound in the sixth inning after failing to stem a run of starting pitching that Wade Miley a day earlier called embarrassing for the entire rotation.

Asher had navigated five innings with just a two-run double by right fielder Avisaíl García harming him, and was trailing 2-1 when first baseman José Abreu led off the sixth with a single. Asher hit García on the elbow, walked designated hitter Todd Frazier, then allowed a towering grand slam to left field by third baseman Matt Davidson.

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For most of Davidson's home run trot, Asher squatted behind the mound and stared ahead. He popped up only as manager Buck Showalter jogged to the mound to end his day, perhaps a bit tardy.

"Super frustrating, you know?" Asher said. "I wanted to go out there –  I wanted to give my team a chance to win. And I just didn't do that."

Asher allowed six runs on six hits with a pair of walks and a strikeout in five innings to bring his ERA to 5.05, and the slam meant the Orioles have just one quality start in their past seven games.

Showalter didn't lay the blame at his feet, though. When asked whether the depleted bullpen from this month's swoon played into Asher staying in for the sixth or whether it was what he saw from his young right-hander, Showalter said "it's both – mostly the first part.

"We're just a little short down there, trying to always have a long piece the next day," he said. "With all the short starts, that's the byproduct of it. The hit-by-pitch hurt him, but he was a pitch away here or there. He wasn't the issue. The issue was one run."

Failure to launch: Asher's disappointment was more subdued than that of third baseman Manny Machado, who slammed his bat in anger after popping out to second base as the Orioles tried to mount a rally to erase a 2-1 deficit in the fifth inning.

Before that, left fielder Joey Rickard and center fielder Adam Jones had singled to open the inning, and two pitches later, right fielder Mark Trumbo grounded into a double play to end the Orioles' last threat off vulnerable starter Derek Holland.

"I don't know, I got mad because I missed a pitch," Machado said. "I was sitting on it, and I just missed it. I got frustrated, but every run counts. He got out of two innings where we should have gotten a couple runs, and that's just how things are going for us right now."

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Said Showalter: "The first-and-third situation is tough. Guys are pushing, pushing, and just scoring one run — you can't put it all on one inning. It was more than that. You have to tip your hat to their pitcher, but we seem to be doing a lot of that lately."

The Orioles were putting runners on all night but not pushing them home. They had a hit in every inning until the eighth, but even when they scored, were left wanting more.

Their only run came with no small amount of frustration itself, even if meant an early lead. Rickard doubled into the left-field corner to open the game, went to third when Jones sacrificed himself with a bunt, and scored on a line drive off the left-field wall by Machado. But Machado was thrown out trying to turn the hit into a double.

"We had some good at-bats there," Showalter said. "We had some good at-bats in other situations, too. Just couldn't finish it off with another good at-bat. Good pitchers make that adjustment. I'll always give them some credit on that, but we're better than that."

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop singled with one out in the second and was ultimately left at third base. The Orioles had two on and one out in the third inning before Machado and Trumbo struck out consecutively to end the inning. A two-out walk for Welington Castillo in the fourth inning came before a single by shortstop J.J. Hardy, but they weren't pushed home, either.

Overall, the Orioles left seven men on base and were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

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"Unfortunately, we didn't come up with key hits and it was just one of those times that we're not able to produce," Machado said. "We've just got to keep fighting, keep doing what we're doing, and eventually, things will start turning around."

For whom the phone tolls: With Brad Brach and Mychal Givens pushed back into late-inning roles in the absence of closer Zach Britton and Darren O'Day, it's fair to wonder who is supposed to pitch when in the Orioles bullpen.

Richard Bleier was up and warming when Asher gave up the slam in the sixth, and worked out of a jam for a scoreless inning on the mound after it. Rookie Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the seventh and the eighth, pitching two scoreless frames.

But with at least Ubaldo Jiménez unavailable and possibly one other arm out there not at his disposal, plus the knowledge that his bullpen has been worn thin by all the recent short starts, Showalter stuck with Asher.

A year ago, those mid-inning jams were Givens' specialty. Now, he's held out for when the team is protecting a lead. And perhaps because of that, there wasn't one for him or Brach to hold yet again.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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