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Beltre homers twice against Britton and Orioles struggle in the clutch against Rangers

While the Orioles have scored enough runs to win the past two nights — efforts beset by shaky starting pitching — the funk that their hitters are in with men on base in back-to-back losses to the Texas Rangers might have been most frustrating.

The Orioles lost their sixth game in their past eight Tuesday night, an 8-4 defeat in front of an announced 29,160 at Camden Yards. For the second straight night, the Orioles were on the verge of breaking through against a Texas starter but let early opportunities slip away.

And with the loss, the Orioles continued a slide down the American League East standings. They now trail the Tampa Bay Rays by two games for second place in the division.

The Orioles have lost 20 games this season in which they've scored four or more runs. While their starting pitching has been disappointing — because of both bloated line scores and the rotation's inability to consistently pitch deep into games — the Orioles offense has made up for that on many nights. But over the past two games, the Orioles are 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position.

“We had opportunities and didn't cash in,” said center fielder Adam Jones. “We cashed in a few, but overall, we let a few runners in scoring position slip away. Against this Texas team, you can't do that.”

It didn't help that Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre outslugged the Orioles on his own, driving in five runs and hitting a pair of homers off Orioles left-hander Zach Britton for his 25th career multi-homer game.

The Orioles (49-42) have lost 12 of their past 15 regular season games against the Rangers.

Britton allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings. In his six major league starts this season, he's lasted at least six innings just twice.

Britton was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game, as was Kevin Gausman, who allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief. The Orioles will announce corresponding moves today, one of which will be activating starter Wei-Yin Chen off the disabled list.

Orioles pitchers have allowed 119 home runs, most in the majors. The Orioles entered Tuesday night's game having not allowed a homer in their previous four games, a season-best streak.

Beltre, who has 20 homers this season, entered the night hitless in three career at-bats against Britton (2-3), but he had three hits in as many at-bats against him and finished 4-for-4.

“Beltre beat me,” Britton said. “I did him some favors by putting some guys on ahead of him. Just didn't make the quality pitch. Left some balls out over the plate, he's not missing too many mistakes and didn't miss any today. Can't let a guy like that beat you and I did by putting some guys on ahead of him.”

In his past 13 games, Beltre is batting .471 (24-for-51) with six homers and 13 RBIs. In his past three regular-season games against the Orioles, Beltre has five homers (he hit three in a meeting Aug. 22 in Texas).

Britton's 2-1 lead heading into the fifth inning disappeared as the Rangers rallied for four runs with two outs. After Leonys Martin singled but was picked off first base by Britton, Ian Kinsler singled and Jurickson Profar walked. Nelson Cruz then singled past a diving Manny Machado at third, scoring Kinsler. That brought up Beltre, who had hit a solo homer to lead off the second.

On an 0-1 count, Beltre hit a 92-mph, waist-high fastball into the left-field stands to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead.

But the microcosm of the Orioles' recent struggles was their half of the fifth inning. After back-to-back fielding errors put runners at first and third with no outs against Texas starter Martin Perez (3-1), the Orioles were on the verge of a big inning with the heart of the order coming up.

Manny Machado popped up to second on the first pitch, then Jones struck out swinging in an at-bat that included two flailing hacks at pitches in the dirt.

“I see it just as everybody else sees it,” Jones said. “I chased pitches that I shouldn't have. Pretty simple. There's no equation to figure that out. I chased it.”

The Orioles were able to plate a pair of runs in the inning on J.J. Hardy's two-out, two-run single, but they knew they should have had more.

“We're going up there just trying to make contact,” said Machado, who hit his seventh homer of the season in the third to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. “Things aren't falling for us. We're not getting key hits when we need to.”

They tied the score at 1 in the second inning on Brian Roberts' RBI single off Perez, but stranded runners at the corners.

Jones was asked afterward whether the Orioles were pressing at the plate.

“No. We're just not hitting,” he said. “I think that happens in sports. If you want somebody to hit .400 all the time or .300 or whatever you guys label us to hit, it's not going to happen every day. The good thing about baseball, there's tomorrow. Be positive, and come back tomorrow.”

The Rangers tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh on an RBI double by Profar and an RBI single by A.J. Pierzynski. Both runs were charged to Gausman, the first runs he's allowed as a reliever after eight straight scoreless innings since moving to the bullpen.

Controversy came in the bottom half of that inning. Nick Markakis opened the inning with a walk and sped for second on a 3-2 pitch to Machado. Machado took the pitch and, thinking it was ball four, took a step toward first. But home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth called strike and then ruled Markakis out at second because of batter's interference when Pierzynski's arm made contact with Machado on the throw.

“It's a tough call, it could have gone either way,” Machado said.

After the game, Orioles manager Showalter said the call was the right one based on the rule book, but he inferred that Pierzynski initiated the contact when he knew he wasn't going to get the baserunner.

“Certain catchers who have been around a while understand that if you don't have a play at second, you invite some contact,” Showalter said. “It's one of those things. [He] got the call right by the way it's designed. That certainly didn't beat us.”

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