BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles apparently drained all the big hits from their bats while having their way with St. Louis Cardinals in two straight blowouts.
In the series finale Sunday, the Orioles couldn’t muster a home run or a clutch hit, and their bid for a three-game sweep dissipated with an 8-3 defeat.
Nick Markakis had four hits for Baltimore, but the Orioles went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position. It was a stark contrast from the first two games of the series, when Baltimore totaled nine home runs and outscored St. Louis 22-5.
Manager Buck Showalter gave credit to St. Louis starter Lance Lynn and reliever Pat Neshek, who fanned four in two perfect innings.
Lynn (12-8) gave up three runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings. It was only the second time in his last 12 starts that he allowed more than two runs, but he was tough when it counted.
“(Lynn has) that late-life fastball,” Showalter said. “Everybody just sits there and says, ‘It’s just X miles an hour and it should be easy.’ It’s not that easy.”
With Neshek leading the charge, the Cardinals bullpen held Baltimore hitless after the sixth. It was 5-3 game until the ninth, when Peter Bourjos hit three-run drive off Zach Britton to end the left-hander’s run of 27 straight scoreless appearances at home.
“We knew the type of year Neshek’s having that it would be tough on the right-handers,” Showalter said. “There were a couple big outs they got out of their bullpen. We held the fort, made a run at them. We just let it get away from us in the ninth there. I would have liked our chances in the ninth if we could have held it to one run.”
Showalter was ejected after a replay overturned an out call on a force play in the top of the seventh. His first ejection of the season was automatic after he came out to argue the result of a replay.
Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman (6-4) allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings. The struggle began with a 37-pitch first inning in which the Cardinals scored twice on four hits and a walk.
“From the first inning on, it was kind of a battle of keeping my pitch count down,” Gausman said. “That first inning was a rough one. It kind of seemed like wherever they hit the ball, we didn’t have a guy there. Sometimes it happens that way. That’s what you love about baseball and sometimes it’s what you hate about baseball.”
The AL East-leading Orioles next host the New York Yankees for a three-game series that begins Monday night. New York trails by six games.
“We don’t really look at it quite the way everybody else does,” Showalter said. “It’s significant because they’re one of the teams we’ve got to be better than when the smoke clears.”
The Cardinals got four hits from rookie Kolten Wong and finished with a season-high 17 — 14 of them singles.
“We walked in here today and that’s all the conversation was, we’ve got to win this, we’ve got to figure out a way to get this one,” manager Mike Matheny said.
St. Louis went up 4-2 in the sixth on an RBI single by Descalso, but Markakis matched that in the bottom half with a run-scoring single.
Successive doubles by Descalso and Matt Carpenter, off Andrew Miller in the eighth, made it 5-3.
Bourjos wrapped it up with his home run. He entered as a pinch runner in the seventh.
Orioles: Shortstop J.J. Hardy was a late scratch from the starting lineup with a sprained left thumb. “I was full uni, ready to go,” Hardy said afterward. “I was planning on playing.”
Cardinals: Right-hander Shelby Miller (8-8) seeks his 25th career victory Monday night in the opener of a three-game series in Miami.
Orioles: Baltimore looks to improve upon its 6-3 record against the Yankees when Bud Norris (9-7) faces New York’s Chris Capuano (1-2) on Monday night.
Cardinals: Lynn hadn’t allowed more than two runs in six straight starts before this one.
Orioles: Their eight-game run with at least one long ball ended. Baltimore is 56-25 when hitting a HR and 11-25 when it doesn’t.
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