Chen roughed up as Orioles stumble into break

Chen roughed up as Orioles stumble into break

Chen roughed up as Orioles stumble into break
ANAHEIM -- It wasn't exactly a favorable image Baltimore left in closing out an impressive first half.

The Orioles looked as if they were already on All-Star break on Sunday afternoon, struggling in every facet of the game in a listless 6-0 loss to the Angels. The dour ending, which capped a surprisingly strong start to the season, showcased some of the lingering concerns that reside over a Baltimore club that is in second place in the American League East after posting just its second winning first-half record since 1998.

"It's an unfinished story," manager Buck Showalter said in assessing the season at the midway mark. "All our curiosity will be satisfied [at the end of the season]. Everybody at this time of the year knows they've done some things good and things we've got to be better at. ... We've got some important times ahead of us if we want to stay competitive."

In Sunday's uninspired loss, there were mental lapses -- most notably the Orioles forgetting how many outs there were in the bottom of the second inning -- and the struggles of starter Wei-Yin Chen, who surrendered a career-high three home runs over four-plus innings. But Baltimore's biggest problem remains its lineup, a struggling group that is without Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold -- who is likely out for the year -- and has been held to single-digit hits in 19 of its last 22 games. The Orioles have recorded three extra-base hits or more just once over that stretch, with Robert Andino's leadoff double the team's first game-opening extra-base hit since May 14.

"We haven't been getting hits," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is mired in an 0-for-19 slump and one of several O's regulars who have struggled without Markakis' presence. "We haven't been getting timely hits, just everything. It just kind of snowballed. It's a good time for the break."

The Orioles' offense made Sunday's starter Brad Mills -- who entered the game with an 8.57 career ERA -- look like ace Jered Weaver, striking out six times over his five innings and mustering up just three hits off the lefty, whose fastball sat in the upper 80s. Mills, who was with Toronto last season, was recalled before the game to make his Angels debut in place of injured Dan Haren. He didn't issue a walk and improved to 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles.

Baltimore will go into the second half sliding, with Sunday's struggles running the offense's scoreless streak to 22 innings. The Orioles -- who lost three of four games in Anaheim -- were held scoreless in 31 of their final 32 innings, with Steve Pearce's three-run homer in Friday's win the exception.

Chen, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning in his previous outing in Seattle, turned in the shortest outing of his career and said his focus moving forward is becoming more consistent.

"Sometimes I pitch good one game, and sometimes I have a horrible game," Chen said through his interpreter. "That's one thing I want to learn."

The 26-year-old Chen finished the first half of his rookie year 7-5 with a 3.93 ERA. He allowed a second-inning solo homer to Erick Aybar, and Mike Trout and Albert Pujols hit two more homers in the third to push the Angels' lead to four. Chen issued three walks for the second time in three starts and heads to the break winless in his final four first-half starts.

"It was one of those days where if you get the ball up, it's going to carry," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his team's power surge. "And we needed it. To get those early runs I think they helped Brad to settle in and just get creative out there."

Five of the Angels' six runs came with two outs, including Mark Trumbo's fifth-inning solo homer off Orioles reliever Luis Ayala. Ayala tossed two innings, and Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg followed with a scoreless frame a piece, leaving the bullpen with an American League-leading 2.75 ERA heading into the second half.

"We are not exactly where we want to be but we're in a pretty good position," Hardy said of an Orioles club trying to reverse a trend of 14 consecutive losing seasons. "We just need to have a strong second half and we'll be all right."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.