Orioles' Wild Card grip slips as Hunter struggles

Orioles' Wild Card grip slips as Hunter struggles

Orioles' Wild Card grip slips as Hunter struggles
ARLINGTON -- The Orioles had plenty of positives come out of a .500 road trip against two teams that played in the American League Championship Series last year and are back in the playoff race again.

Tommy Hunter's fourth-inning struggles in Wednesday night's 12-3 loss to the Rangers wasn't one of them.

Facing his former team for the first time in his old ballpark, Hunter allowed eight straight baserunners to start the bottom of the fourth, seven of them on hits. One of them was a two-run home run by Adrian Beltre, who rocked a 1-0 cutter to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead, his second of three homers on the night.

The Rangers kept rolling after that against their ex-teammate Hunter. Nelson Cruz and Michael Young had singles. David Murphy had an RBI double. Geovany Soto walked and No. 9 hitter Mitch Moreland crushed an 0-1 cutter for a grand slam to give the Rangers an 8-1 lead.

The night was over for Hunter, who gave up three homers -- two to Beltre -- to give him 32 allowed this season, most in the AL. Hunter, a standup guy who has many friends in the Rangers' clubhouse, was clearly frustrated after allowing eight earned runs in three-plus innings. He didn't have a strikeout.

Hunter lost in his first start against Texas on May 10 in Baltimore.

"It's one of those things," Hunter said. "I don't go out there and try to give them up. I don't go out and say, 'Hey, here's a fastball out over the plate -- here, take it over the fence and let's lose the game.' That's not what I try to do.

"I didn't do my job tonight," Hunter said. "I didn't keep the ball down, and I didn't give my team a chance to win. As a starting pitcher, that's what you're supposed to do."

The Orioles lost two out of three games to the Rangers after winning a three-game series in Detroit. The loss dropped the O's a half-game out of the second AL Wild Card spot following wins by Tampa Bay and Oakland earlier Wednesday.

Hunter wasn't the only O's pitcher who struggled against Beltre.

Beltre hit his second home run of the fourth inning off reliever Kevin Gregg, a two-run shot for a 10-1 lead. Beltre also had a blast off Hunter to lead off the second inning.

Beltre had two chances at his fourth homer, which made for an odd scenario, considering Rangers teammate Josh Hamilton swatted four off O's pitching in May at Camden Yards. Beltre said he was aware of it and was trying to get No. 4.

"You're just trying to hit a home run," Beltre said. "After the second at-bat, I was trying to go deep. After [the third home run], I was trying to go deep again. But it didn't work. I got a good pitch to do it, too. I didn't get it done."

The Orioles also had one other down moment Wednesday night. Catcher Matt Wieters was hit by a foul ball on the right shoulder. The joint got more sore during the game and Wieters came out in the bottom of the seventh. X-rays were negative. Wieters has a right shoulder contusion and is day to day.

"It got tight as the game went on," Wieters said. "I just need to get a little rest."

The Orioles didn't get much going against Rangers starter Derek Holland. Leadoff hitter Nick Markakis was 3-for-3 against Holland, with an RBI single in the third to tie the game at 1. He also had a two-run triple in the fifth to make it 10-3.

Markakis had a excellent road trip batting leadoff, collecting 11 hits in 23 at-bats. He has hit safely in seven straight games for a .444 batting average, raising his season average to .295.

The Orioles got another strong start from Chris Tillman in Tuesday's win and Jim Johnson moved closer to a team record with his 38th save. The O's had the rally from the 5-0 first-inning deficit Sunday in Detroit for a 7-5 win.

All of that softens the blow of Hunter's night somewhat, as bad as it ended up.

"It's a great road trips against these two teams," Markakis said. "It's definitely good. We could have won a game or two more, but we can't hang our heads."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.