The nerves that accompanied Josh Rogers’ big league debut last week were gone Monday at Safeco Field. The Orioles rookie left-hander actually pitched better against the Seattle Mariners than he did in his first start six days ago.
But an offense that’s sputtered into September couldn’t hold up its end. In a 2-1 series-opening loss, the Orioles managed just three hits, scoring their only run on second baseman Jonathan Villar’s second homer in two days.
After Villar’s fourth-inning homer, the Orioles had just two base runners the rest of the night. They also struck out 12 times total.
The loss marked the third time in four games that the Orioles have scored two runs or fewer. Including the Royals’ three-game sweep in Kansas City, the Orioles (40-98) have scored just eight runs in the first four games of their nine-game back-and-forth road trip that takes them to Seattle and then Tampa Bay.
Mariners right-handed starter Erasmo Ramírez, who entered the night with a 6.28 ERA and was shelled for seven earned runs in his last start, held the Orioles to two hits over 5 1/3 innings.
“It’s kind of frustrating that we’re facing a guy tonight that’s had his issues, and we’ve been making a lot of pitchers look good here lately,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “We’re just not swinging the bats very well, and getting in a lot of counts behind and swinging at a lot of pitches out of the zone uncharacteristically.”
Rogers (1-1) held the Mariners (77-61) to just two runs over 5 1/3 innings. In his debut against the Toronto Blue Jays, he used his fastball and slider almost equally, but on Monday, he established his fastball early, unafraid of inducing fly-ball outs in Safeco Field’s vast outfield. Later in the night, he went to his slider more often.
“I was pretty calm the whole time,” Rogers said. “I was real comfortable out there today, all leading up to this start. No real crazy surprises. That’s a really good lineup they’ve got over there, but I was pretty confident the whole time. And fastball was pretty good early, and established it to both sides of the plate.”
Rogers retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced before issuing back-to-back one-out walks to Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in the fourth.
Ryan Healy then laced an RBI single into the left-center-field gap to score Cano but was thrown out at second attempting to extend the hit to a double. That turned out to be a big out, as Rogers was able to escape the inning on a groundout to first.
Mariners left fielder Cameron Maybin hit Rogers’ first pitch of the fifth inning into the right-center-field gap, hitting the warning track and then the top of the outfield wall near the 380-foot sign before ricocheting to right fielder Adam Jones.
Maybin was speeding out of the batter’s box on the high fly ball and slid into third ahead of Villar’s relay throw. Two batters later, Dee Gordon’s sacrifice fly to left scored Maybin without a throw home from left fielder Joey Rickard.
“Just kind of got away from” establishing the fastball, Rogers said. “Just kind of let them get really comfortable out there and let them put some good swings on the ball with pitches away. Other than that, I felt really good about the outing. It really sucks that I gave up those two runs and walked those two guys and put us in a position like that.”
Rogers left after a Cano groundout to start the sixth on his 80th pitch. He recorded four strikeouts, all of them swinging and three on his slider, and had just the back-to-back walks in the fourth.
“I thought his secondary stuff was better,” Showalter said. “[Orioles pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and I were talking about it. You’ve got a little crispness in the air finally. Guys, pitchers especially, it kind of freshens up their arms.”
Villar, whose fourth-inning solo homer off right-hander Ramírez gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead, has accounted for all of the Orioles’ runs over the past two games. His solo homer was the team’s only run in Sunday’s 9-1 loss in Kansas City. On Monday, Villar turned on a 1-0 cutter from Ramírez, tagging a ball that hit off the right-field foul pole.
“The first at-bat, I saw what the guy threw me,” Villar said. “In the second at-bat, I was ready for one pitch. I was happy because he threw me that pitch right there.”
Ramírez (2-3) allowed just one other hit, a second-inning single by Tim Beckham, over 5 1/3 innings. The Mariners bullpen accounted for 3 2/3 scoreless relief innings, recording seven strikeouts. Closer Edwin Díaz struck out the side in the ninth.
The Orioles’ best opportunity to tie the game came in the seventh, when Beckham landed on second base with two outs on a botched fly ball by center fielder Dee Gordon. But Mariners reliever Nick Vincent struck out Renato Núñez on three pitches.
After Chance Sisco ripped a 95-mph fastball from Alex Colome wide of the right-field foul pole in the eighth and then struck out on the next pitch, Joey Rickard singled, but Caleb Joseph hit into an inning-ending double play.
Jimmy Yacabonis, who was recalled before Monday’s game along with Sisco, recorded 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief, retiring five of the six hitters he faced.
Villar kept a run from scoring off Miguel Castro in the bottom of the eighth, making a diving play on Healy’s sharply hit ball up the middle and finishing the play at first.