BALTIMORE –- It’s an understatement to say that Monday night was not Bud Norris’ best. For the second time in his career, Norris allowed four home runs, after more than three weeks of superlative play, the Orioles suffered a lopsided defeat.
Norris’ home runs accounted for five runs as the Orioles lost to the Texas Rangers 8-1 before 21,565 at Oriole Park.
After Sunday’s doubleheader, and just six pitchers in the bullpen, manager Buck Showalter wanted six innings out of Norris, and he made his way through them, and left trailing 5-1.
Tommy Hunter allowed a three-run triple to Joey Gallo in the seventh to enable Texas (39-38) to pull away.
Norris (2-7) has lost three straight and won just once in his last seven starts dating to Apr. 26. He missed four weeks due to bronchitis.
“Three of the homers were on breaking balls and one changeup. Just bad pitches. It’s hard to go out there and pitch with just fastballs. I tried to battle through it, I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball a lot better as of late. I feel a lot better coming off my sickness and everything else, really just trying to turn the ship,” Norris said.
The Orioles (41-36) had gone 19-5 since June 4.
Norris (2-7) equaled his career high with the four homers. Mitch Moreland hit two, one of them a two-run shot. Carlos Corporan and Shin-Soo Choo added solo shots.
“Bud's had some tough losses when he's pitched well. You get opportunities, and some of the challenges have been self-inflicted and he's got to figure it out. Opportunities, they're always going to be there for the most part when you have a track record like him, but he understands the competitive part of it and nobody wants to do it more than Bud,” Showalter said.
Last year, Norris won a career-high 15 games. This year, it’s much different.
“I’m not a first-half guy, I hope I’m a second-half guy. I know what I did for this team last year in the second half and I just want to get back to that guy,” Norris said. “A couple pitches here and there, if I find my slider I feel like I’m a lot more in-tune with the game. I wasn’t that far off.”
The last time the Orioles faced Wandy Rodriguez in May 2014, he didn’t get out of the second inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates let him go a day later.
He allowed one run on eight hits in five-plus innings.
The normally mild-mannered Steve Pearce showed his displeasure with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck by hopping up and down and tossing his helmet like a Frisbee when he was called out on strikes in the fourth.
Both sides were annoyed with Hirschbeck, who tangled with Norris during a spring training start. In the fifth, Rodriguez’s catcher, Corporan and Hirschbeck growled at each other about the strike zone, and so did pitching coach Mike Maddux. After Maddux stayed at the mound for an extraordinarily long time, Hirschbeck walked to end the summit, but Maddux refused to budge.
Finally he did, and the two exchanged ideas as they walked off.
When Rodriguez walked to the mound to start the sixth, he stopped by to chat with Hirschbeck, covered his mouth with his glove, talked for a few moments, and moved on.
In the fifth, the Orioles (41-36) had their best opportunity when Caleb Joseph singled with one out, Manny Machado followed with a base hit to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, and Nolan Reimold walked.
Adam Jones singled to score Joseph, but Chris Davis struck out and Delmon Young flied to right.
Norris allowed five runs on nine hits in six innings.
Spencer Patton relieved Rodriguez (5-3) in the sixth. Patton, Keone Kela, Tanner Scheppers and Sam Freeman each pitched a scoreless inning.
Joseph thinks that Norris isn’t far away from being the pitcher of 2014 again.
“He looks good to me. I know sometimes he feels a little out of whack and it’s a long, enduring season, and we all feel out of whack at some point. I remember times last year when we felt out of whack as well,” Joseph said
“He’s a proven major league pitcher in this league. He’s a great pitcher. He pitched a lot of meaningful games for us last year. I mean, the game he pitched against Detroit in the playoffs, there’s nothing better than that. We know he’s that type of guy. We know he’s that pitcher. It’s one start for him. I know it seems like it snowballed, but he’s going to back on the horse, and we’re going to need him this year.”
COMING UP: Colby Lewis (7-3, 4.10) faces Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.58) on Tuesday night.