AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE - The perplexing struggle of Pedro Strop goes on, the Baltimore Orioles can only hope the problem will soon be corrected.
Strop was summoned from the bullpen Wednesday with the Orioles nursing a two-run lead against the Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander faced five batters, retired only one and left with Baltimore down by two in what turned into a 9-5 loss Wednesday.
After shining as Baltimore's setup man last year, Strop (0-3) has a 7.58 ERA and has surrendered nine runs in his last five innings. He spent some time on the disabled list earlier with a lower back strain, but no one's citing that as the reason for his ineffective performance.
"Pete was one of those guys for us last year and has been at times this year, and we hope that he will again," manager Buck Showalter said. "He pitched well and got physically fine and had a couple really good outings, as you saw. It just wasn't there for him today. A deflection and some things got away from him. These guys aren't robots. They have emotions too."
Chris Davis hit his major league-leading 21st homer for Baltimore, 0-5 this season when trying to complete a three- or four-game sweep. The Orioles next host the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox in a four-game series beginning Thursday night.
"That was a tough inning for us," outfielder Nate McLouth said, referring to the Los Angeles seventh. "Won the series though, and got Boston coming in. We'll worry about them now."
McLouth had his run of 19 consecutive successful steal attempts snapped in the third inning when he lost his footing and toppled off second base after reaching the bag ahead of the throw. He was tagged out by Erick Aybar, ending the longest active steals streak in the majors and third-best in Orioles history.
Davis gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead in the fourth against Jerome Williams (5-2), ending a 1-for-17 skid with his first home run and RBI since June 2. Adam Jones made it 4-2 in the sixth with his 14th homer, his third in four games.
The lead vanished in the seventh. Alberto Callaspo singled and Brad Hawpe drew a four-pitch walk, prompting the exit of starter Jason Hammel. Strop came in, and Hank Conger hit a sharp, high grounder that glanced off Strop's glove for an infield hit.
"It was going to be a double play if I could catch that one -- but I couldn't," Strop said.
"For us to get a break like that to get something going was huge," Conger said, "because not too many breaks have been going our way lately."
That loaded the bases for Aybar, who hit a liner into the gap in right-center. As Aybar slid into third, the relay throw from Ryan Flaherty bounced out of play, allowing Aybar to score for a 6-4 lead.
"In that situation, you're looking for one pitch, and he threw a fastball in the middle and I (made) good contact," Aybar said.
A groundout, a walk and Albert Pujols' 11th homer followed. Strop then exited to jeers from the crowd of 25,964.
"Not good. Only thing I can say," Strop said. "I couldn't do the job."
And his season?
"It's hard to be in that kind of situation," he said. "I'm just going to keep working hard and get back on track as soon as possible."
Baltimore went up 2-0 in the first when Nick Markakis and Jones delivered run-scoring groundouts.
Conger hit a solo shot in the third, his fourth homer of the year and third in his last five starts. The drive was the 69th in the 22-year history of Camden Yards to land on Eutaw Street, beyond the right-field wall.
Josh Hamilton singled with two outs in the fourth and scored on Howie Kendrick's double.
NOTES: Baltimore's Manny Machado extended his hitting streak to 10 games, one short of his career high. He also ended a season-long run of 11 straight games without getting at least two hits. ... Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will skip Joe Blanton (1-10) against the Yankees and start C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson and Jered Weaver. ... Angels 1B Mark Trumbo did not start, but entered in the seventh as a defensive replacement and has played in all 66 games this year. ... Orioles LHP Wei Yin-Chen (oblique) is scheduled to throw off a half-mound on Thursday in Sarasota, Fla. If all goes well, he will pitch off a full mound Saturday.
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