The Orioles' 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night at Camden Yards was, in one sense, what Major League Baseball wants from its teams nowadays: Crisp play, a couple of longballs and nine innings that are completed in less than 2 1/2 hours.
But don't tell Orioles manager Buck Showalter that the pitchers' duel between lefty Wei-Yin Chen and Angels master craftsman Jered Weaver was great baseball.
Because the end result was far from pleasurable for Showalter and his last-place Orioles.
"The people who think it's a good game are just trying to get out of here before three hours," Showalter said. "We're trying to win here. Anything that ends with an 'L' on our side isn't enjoyable."
After winning two of three against the Toronto Blue Jays to start this nine-game homestand, the Orioles (15-18) are now 2-2 and will ask Ubaldo Jimenez to continue his early-season magic one night before he was expecting to pitch. After Friday's loss, Showalter officially scratched Saturday's scheduled starter, Bud Norris, because of bronchitis, and will be pitching Jimenez, who has never beaten the Angels.
To win Saturday, the Orioles are likely going to have to muster more offense than they could against Weaver (2-4), who allowed just one run on three hits in 7 1/3 innings.
"He's a tough guy to face, man," said first baseman Chris Davis, who was hitless in four at-bats and was at one point victimized by Weaver's 64-mph curveball. "He knows how to pitch. He's been doing it for a long time. He's a guy that if you go up there and try to get too aggressive, he uses it against you. But at the same time, if you go up there and try to take pitches, you can [fall] behind him."
Los Angeles took the lead in the first when Albert Pujols slammed a 92-mph fastball from Chen into the left-field seats for his sixth homer of the year and 526th of his illustrious career.
The Angels made it 2-0 against Chen in the second. Erick Aybar hit a leadoff double that sailed past left fielder Alejandro De Aza. Two batters later, Aybar scored on a shallow fly ball to right that Delmon Young caught, but his throw home was way off line.
It remained 2-0 until J.J. Hardy hit an 83-mph fastball from Weaver over the left-center wall to cut the Angels' lead in half in the bottom of the eighth. The Angels got that run back in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Johnny Giavotella off Tommy Hunter.
Two solo homers and two sacrifice flies — that would be all of the scoring the announced 35,470 would see at Camden Yards.
"Wei-Yin did a great job. He gave us a chance to win. He gave us a quality start," Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said. "We just couldn't scratch out anything against their guy. It's just one of those games where we pitched really well and couldn't scratch anything out to win."
Los Angeles closer Huston Street pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save — though the Orioles had the game-tying run at the plate twice in the bottom of the ninth. But Davis hit a deep flyout and pinch hitter Travis Snider fanned, stranding Adam Jones at second base.
Chen (1-3) didn't allow a run after the second inning, leaving to a loud ovation with one runner on and no outs in the eighth. In seven strong innings, the Taiwanese lefty gave up five hits and two walks while tying a season high with seven strikeouts.
It was the sixth time in seven starts that Chen has given up two earned runs or fewer. He allowed three runs in his first outing of the season on April 7.
"Overall, I felt pretty good. Well, there was those bumpy innings in the first two, but luckily I made adjustments," said Chen (1-2). "I can't say I'm in a groove, but I feel pretty good."
Weaver was even better. The 32-year-old right-hander with the impeccable control and befuddling array of pitches ranging from the mid 60s to the mid 80s kept the Orioles off balance all game.
Coming off a complete-game shutout of the surprising Houston Astros in his last outing, Weaver didn't give up a run through seven innings. He did, however, walk a batter, giving up a free pass to Jimmy Paredes in the first. He has now walked just six in 50 2/3 innings.
Hardy singled to left in the second for the club's first hit and became the first Oriole to reach second base in the fifth when Weaver made a throwing error on Hardy's squibber in front of the mound.
It took until the seventh to get another Oriole on base. Jones dropped a bunt single to begin the bottom of the seventh, but Weaver immediately induced a double play from Davis.
So it was up to Hardy to get to Weaver — and the shortstop hit his second homer in 28 at-bats this year to get the Orioles on the board.
"He's just different. He's different than everyone else. He can spot [his pitches] as good as anyone," said Hardy, who entered the night 3-for-23 against Weaver. "Tonight, I don't know, maybe he just left a couple out over the middle of the plate."
Weaver and the Angels bullpen kept the Orioles to that lone run for Los Angeles' fourth straight win — in a game that was quick, crisp and well-played. But that's no consolation to an Orioles team that is 5-8 in May.
"Losses are no fun no matter how you get them, but it was nice to see Chen go out there and throw the ball well," Hardy said. "We just didn't score enough."