Nationals fall behind early, lose to Orioles 4-3

DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) — Ian Desmond had a night to forget in the finale of a memorable series.

Desmond committed a key throwing error and got plunked in the right thumb with a fastball as the Washington Nationals lost to the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 on Thursday night.

Steve Pearce homered and Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz drove in a run each for the Orioles, who built a 4-0 lead in the third inning and held on. Baltimore took two of three from the Nationals in this rain-shortened, home-and-home interleague showdown between division leaders.

Baltimore’s final run came when Desmond fielded an infield single by Cruz and threw wildly to third base from his shortstop position in an effort to get Jones drifting off the base. The throw soared over the head of Anthony Rendon, allowing Jones to score.

That ended Washington’s 13-game errorless streak, which matched the team’s longest run since the franchise moved from Montreal in 2005.

“I felt like I had a play at third,” Desmond said. “It was just one of those instinct plays. I think you’ve seen me make that play before. That throw just got away from me. You take chances and sometimes you have to pay for the consequences.”

In the eighth, Desmond was struck by a pitch from Darren O’Day and left the game in the bottom half.

“It doesn’t feel good, but it’s not broken,” Desmond said.

The Orioles won the opener in Washington, needing 11 innings to do so, before rain postponed Tuesday’s game until Aug. 4. The Nationals used three homers to prevail on Wednesday before coming up short in the down-to-the-last-out finale.

Although the teams are based only 40 miles apart, enthusiasm for the series isn’t exactly Mets-Yankees or Cubs-White Sox. But there’s still hope.

“It was a good series. It was very well put together,” losing pitcher Gio Gonzalez said. “It showed that there’s a lot of hope for a Beltway Series. They looked good and we looked good. Everyone had some fun.”

Jayson Werth homered for Washington and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits and an RBI.

Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (9-3) gave up three runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings, walking none and striking out six. The Taiwanese left-hander is 6-1 in 12 starts since May 3, and his nine wins are most on the team.

After O’Day worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, Zach Britton got three outs for his 15th save, capping his 22nd consecutive scoreless appearance at home by retiring Werth with a runner on first.

“That’s a very good team,” Jones said. “We love the competition, and we love the fact that you never know what could happen in October. You could have a Battle of the Beltway when it’s a little colder and bring the fans back out.”

Gonzalez (6-5) allowed three earned runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. His streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings ended when Pearce connected in the first.

Gonzalez won his previous three starts without giving up a run and was unbeaten in four starts following a one-month stay on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

“I felt fine,” he said. “It’s a tough lineup, all the way down to the last guy.”

Pearce put the Orioles in front for good with a drive to left on a 2-0 pitch. It was his 11th home run, more than his previous three seasons combined.

Following Baltimore’s three-run third, Zimmerman hit a two-out RBI single in the fourth. Washington got runners on the corners with two outs in the fifth before Chen struck out Rendon on three pitches.

The Nationals closed to 4-3 in the sixth. After Werth homered on an 0-2 pitch — his second long ball in two nights — Zimmerman doubled and Desmond chased Chen with an RBI double off the scoreboard in right field before Tommy Hunter retired Wilson Ramos on a groundout.

Ramos later flied out with the bases full in the eighth.

NOTES: Baltimore optioned RHP Bud Norris to Double-A Bowie and recalled RHP Preston Guilmet from Triple-A Norfolk. Norris pitched Wednesday and won’t be needed against until after the All-Star break. … The Orioles host the New York Yankees in a three-game series before heading into the All-Star break. Miguel Gonzalez (4-5) faces New York’s Hiroki Kuroda in the opener Friday night. … Washington closes the first half with a three-game series in Philadelphia. Jordan Zimmermann will start for the Nationals on Friday night. … Ramos extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games, but teammate Bryce Harper went 0 for 3 and is in a 1-for-20 skid over his last six games.

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