BALTIMORE – They’re scattering now, to their offseason homes, to beaches, to mountains. Some will stay around Baltimore and four go off to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game.
The Orioles head into the four-day break with a 44-44 record. Two weeks ago, they had higher hopes. They’d won 17 of 22 and end the first half with 10 losses in 13 games.
It didn’t help that Max Scherzer dazzled the Orioles, allowing two home runs to Adam Jones and little else as the Washington Nationals beat the Orioles 3-2 before 46,247 at Oriole Park on Sunday.
Jones hit his 13th home run with two outs in the first and his 14th with two outs in the ninth. In between, Scherzer allowed just two sixth inning singles.
“No one can solve that man. He’s throwing the ball extremely well, and you see it out there. He knows it. You got to bring your A game because he’s always on his A game,” Jones said.
Scherzer (10-7) allowed two runs on four hits in 8 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking none. Drew Storen recorded his 27th save by striking out Chris Davis.
Wei-Yin Chen (4-5) allowed a leadoff single to Yunel Esobar in the fourth. With two outs, Clint Robinson singled. Dan Uggla’s single scored Escobar, and Tyler Moore’s double scored Robinson and Uggla, who had taken second on Jones’ error.
That gave Washington (48-39) a 3-1 lead.
Chen (4-5) continued his string of creditable starts. He allowed three runs, one unearned on eight hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking none.
On Friday, the second half of the season begins and the Orioles play nine games at Detroit, New York and Tampa Bay.
“So come out, second half. These next four days a lot of people will get away from the game of baseball, come out the second half, ready to go. It’s time to focus, time to put that head down and ride it out and get into July, August and ride into September,” Jones said.
Jones, Zach Britton, Manny Machado and Darren O’Day go to Cincinnati.
Manager Buck Showalter will stay home and think about the second half.
“There's a guilt trip around every corner. I don't want to feel that way. The effort's been great, the want-to's been there,” Showalter said. “We're trying to win the next game, and that's in Detroit. I want these guys to get as far away from it as they can, take some pride in the way they've competed and knowing that it's still there for them. We don't look at what somebody else is doing or can do until we do things we can do and have done this year to be consistent. A lot of baseball left and we're engaged in the competition and will continue to be.”
Machado was the team’s outstanding player in the first half, hitting .298 with 19 home runs and 48 RBIs.
“I feel confident with the team we have here. The pitchers are doing well. I think you saw today, Chen, I think it’s been like his last seven starts have been phenomenal. Our pitching staff is doing well. Our bats are there. We’ve just got to put them together and just keep fighting. It’s a long season. We’ve just got to keep grinding it out,” Machado said.
The Orioles are 1-for-36 with runners in scoring position in their last six games, and they’ll have to do better in the second half.
“You’ve got to score more runs, give up less runs, and play better defense. It’s a joint thing. We haven’t really felt like we’ve been able to hit on all cylinders where offense and pitching has kind of clicked together. That’s the key, and our starting pitching is throwing the ball well. They’re going to keep doing that. The offense [has to] step up a little bit,” Matt Wieters said.
The trading deadline is on July 31, and the Orioles could make moves—or maybe not.
“I look at all the answers we're going to need are in our locker room and in our organization. I'm very confident in the people we have,” Showalter said.
NOTES: The Orioles lost their first series to the Nationals at home since 2007. … Jones has 180 home runs with the Orioles, passing Frank Robinson for eighth on the team’s home run list. “He did that in six years here? Took me eight. He’s a little better,” Jones said.. … Bud Norris pitched in relief for the first time at home, throwing a scoreless ninth. … The three games, which were all sellouts, drew 137,031. …The Orioles begin a three-game series in Detroit on Friday. Ubaldo Jimenez (7-4, 2.81) faces Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 4.63).