On the middle stop of the Orioles’ longest road trip of the season by distance — a three-city jaunt that will cover more than 5,800 miles by the time they return to Baltimore — they seemed to arrive in Seattle at just the right time.
A Mariners team that is fighting for its playoff life drew more attention for a clubhouse tussle that occurred before Tuesday night’s game, then showed little life against the struggling Orioles. On Wednesday night, Seattle committed three errors in a four-batter stretch to allow the Orioles back into the game in the middle innings.
But the Orioles (41-99) — now one game away from suffering their 100th loss of the season — couldn’t take advantage of a Mariners team seemingly ready to collapse and lost for the fifth time time in the first six games of their trip to Kansas City, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
The Orioles failed in the clutch in their 5-2 loss to the Mariners, stranding 10 base runners and going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“They were trying to give it to us and we just didn’t take advantage,” Caleb Joseph said. “Their guy, [right-hander Mike] Leake, he’s become a crafty guy and he will just keep you off balance. ... He bent but he didn’t break, and we need to make him break next time.”
In four of this trip’s first six games, the Orioles have scored two runs or fewer.
“There’s some opportunities there,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It just seemed like every mistake we make is magnified because of our inability to score runs.”
Orioles starter Andrew Cashner lasted just 4 1/3 innings, the three runs off him coming on solo homers, including back-to-back blasts by Nelson Cruz and Denard Span that turned a one-run lead into a one-run deficit and chased the right-hander from the game after 100 pitches.
“I was frustrated,” Cashner said. “I really didn’t do a lot well. I’ve just really got to start locating my fastball. I felt like my off-speed stuff was good. I hung that one curveball [to Mitch Haniger]. But other than that, I thought I made some good pitches in some big spots, but just got to find a way.”
The Orioles had their hits but couldn’t get a clutch one. And the Mariners defense did everything to oblige the visitors a big inning in the fifth.
With the Orioles trailing 1-0 on Haniger’s third-inning homer, leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins reached on a double and scored on shortstop Jean Segura’s throwing error on Jonathan Villar’s ground ball.
After Trey Mancini flied out, Segura couldn’t come up with a chopper by Adam Jones, the ball hitting off his glove and bouncing into left field, enabling Villar to score and give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Chris Davis then reached on a throwing error by second baseman Dee Gordon, who was positioned in shallow right on the shift.
But the Orioles didn’t take advantage, leaving runners at the corners when Renato Núñez hit into an inning-ending groundout.
In all, the Orioles left five runners in scoring position, including three at third base.
“They gave us plenty of chances,” Joseph said. “Three errors, made quite a few base runners and really trying to create some space there. They jumped out to an early lead and when they give you opportunities like that you’ve got to pounce on them. Especially a team that’s in contention, playing for the playoffs, you’ve got to take advantage of that. Nine times out of 10 when you do take advantage of it you usually win those games when you’re given that many extra outs. Couldn’t push it across today. Before you know it, a matter of four pitches we’re down by one, so it’s tough.”
Leake allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings, three relievers combined to hold the Orioles to one hit over three scoreless innings, including a 1-2-3 ninth by closer Edwin Díaz, who recorded his 53rd save. The Orioles didn’t draw a single walk in the game.
They failed to score Jones after his leadoff double in the second. In the fourth, they put their first two batters on base on singles by Jones and Davis, but Núñez struck out, Tim Beckham flied out to center and Joey Rickard grounded out in front of the plate. They put two on with one out in the sixth, but Mullins popped up weakly and Villar grounded out to third.
The three home runs Cashner allowed were his most since his first start of the season, when he allowed three to the Minnesota Twins on March 31.
He abandoned two of his better pitches — his two-seam sinking fastball and his slider — instead relying on his four-seamer and changeup.
Cruz’s game-tying homer in the fifth game off a 1-2 four-seam fastball that Cashner hung up in the zone, and Span’s ensuing blast came off a 2-0 changeup.
“I think it’s anytime you get a lead like that, you can’t cough the lead back up,” Cashner said. “So far me, it’s better execution. The homer to Cruz, [OK], but to Span, I’ve definitely got to get ahead there instead of going [behind] 2-0.”