Offensive slump continues in O's loss

It doesn't matter who is the opposing pitcher these days. It could be a burgeoning ace such as the Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Garza, a journeyman such as the Toronto Blue Jays' Dana Eveland or an unheralded youngster such as the Seattle Mariners' Doug Fister, who carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning here Monday night.

The results always seem to be the same against these Orioles, who remain in a brutal offensive slump that is showing no signs of lifting.

In a 3-1 loss to the Mariners before an announced 15,931 on Tuesday night at Safeco Field, the Orioles got a quality outing from David Hernandez but managed just one run and three hits in seven innings against left-hander Jason Vargas, who started the night with a career 5.44 ERA.

"He gave us a lot of pitches to hit, and we missed them," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .215. "We haven't been swinging the bats like we normally have. The last two nights, we faced guys with pretty good stuff -- obviously, they wouldn't be here [if they didn't have it] -- but guys that we generally hit. It's frustrating, but he went out there and pitched the game he was supposed to pitch and we missed a lot of them."

The Orioles lost for the 13th time in 15 games this season, and they'll head into Wednesday's series finale against an actual ace in Felix Hernandez with a 1-5 record on this 10-game road trip.

On the trip, the Orioles have scored just 18 runs in six games, but eight of them came in Sunday's victory over the Oakland Athletics. In nine of their past 11 games, they've been held to three runs or fewer. Seven of those have featured the Orioles scoring two runs or fewer.

De facto cleanup hitter Nolan Reimold drove in the Orioles' lone run in the first inning with an RBI double, but that was all the scoring the visitors would do. Twice, the Orioles had men on second and no outs after a leadoff double. Both times -- Matt Wieters in the second inning and Ty Wigginton in the sixth -- the runners never budged off second base.

"When the quality of at-bats do not provide the amount of offense that you are looking for, it's easy to say that you're less than satisfied with it," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think that's an obviously conclusion that anybody can draw."

Overall, the Orioles went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night and are now a major league-worst 16-for-107 (.150). They are also 5-for-60 (.083) with runners in scoring position and two outs.

That adds up to the Orioles having scored just 45 runs in 15 games, the lowest total in the American League.

"It's early, but it's not the start that everybody wanted," said Reimold who struck out twice in four at-bats and is now hitting .171. "That part is disappointing, but you can't start hanging your head. That's when things really get bad. You try and stay positive."

The shame of the latest subpar offensive effort is it nullified a gritty start by Hernandez, who allowed three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in a performance the Orioles will take from their No. 5 starter any day.

Hernandez allowed seven hits and walked two in falling to 0-3 with a 4.67 ERA. He has now lost nine straight decisions dating to last year and is winless in 12 starts.

"He had a real good breaking ball, used his changeup and got us late in the game. That's a real big improvement for him," Trembley said. "We just really didn't do enough offensively. We had a couple of guys on -- leadoff doubles -- and didn't move those guys over and in. We really wasted a very good pitching outing from Hernandez."

Hernandez got off to a rough start Tuesday night, allowing a single to Ichiro Suzuki and issuing a walk to Chone Figgins. A wild pitch then put runners on second and third with no outs.

Franklin Gutierrez drove in the Mariners' first run with a sacrifice fly. Then, after getting a second out, Hernandez walked Ken Griffey Jr. and allowed an RBI single on an 0-2 changeup to Milton Bradley, who gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead.

Hernandez retired Casey Kotchman for the final out of the first, starting a stretch in which the second-year right-hander set down 12 straight Mariners before Suzuki's two-out single in the fifth.

"I felt like after 30 pitches in the first inning, I had to change something because that wasn't working," Hernandez said. "From the second through the sixth inning, I was really able to calm down and make some good pitches."

He exited after Jack Wilson's one-out RBI double in the seventh, which gave Seattle a 3-1 lead. Seattle reliever Mark Lowe pitched a scoreless eighth and closer David Aardsma did the same in the ninth as the Orioles' offensive woes continued.

"I think we all see the ball good and the results are not what we want," Jones said. "At the same time, we have to keep going out there and battle. Our pitcher threw a very good game tonight, and we were unable to get some runs across the plate. We just have to keep coming out and swinging the bats."

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