Home runs can't overcome rough pitching in slugfest

Home runs can't overcome rough pitching in slugfest

Home runs can't overcome rough pitching in slugfest

BALTIMORE -- Having strived to improve their offense after several years of struggles, the Mariners finally seem to be making strides in that department. But not even four home runs could overcome another shaky pitching performance Friday as the Orioles won an 11-8 slugfest at Camden Yards.

Seattle has surrendered an average of eight runs per night in losing four straight to open a six-game East Coast road swing, rendering moot the increased production from an offense that has been one of the best in the Majors since the start of July.

"It's no secret that we're putting up a lot of runs, by home runs and driving the ball with men on base," said right fielder Michael Morse, who slugged one of the home runs. "To me, teams are like a little puzzle. Once everything gets together and starts clicking, then you start rolling. I think right now we might not be clicking on all cylinders, but it'll come around."

Trying to outslug the Orioles is no easy task. The Mariners are third in the American League in home runs this season, but Baltimore sits No. 1 and did damage with three more on Friday -- including a sixth-inning grand slam by Nate McLouth and an out-of-the-park blast by Chris Davis -- against Mariners pitchers Aaron Harang and Brandon Maurer.

"Tonight we swung the bats well. We needed them," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "You can tell Seattle's swinging the bats well and playing well, so I felt like we were going to need every one of them."

Indeed, the Mariners did quite a bit of bopping of their own with home runs by Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders, Humberto Quintero and Morse. But they couldn't keep up with the Orioles on an 84-degree night as they fell to 50-59 on the season.

Morales continued his red-hot road trip with a 4-for-4 night with a home run, double and two RBIs. The 30-year-old designated hitter is 13-for-17 in the four-game trek, as he's bumped his batting average from .278 to .298.

Morales has hits in his last eight at-bats, one shy of the franchise record of nine straight hits by Raul Ibanez in 2004.

"Between him and Kyle Seager, forget about it. Those guys are on fire right now," said Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson. "Kendrys is locked in. And the guys around him are swinging the bats pretty good. We did a nice job offensively tonight and put up some runs. Unfortunately we were playing catch-up all night long."

Morse snapped an 0-for-11 streak since coming off the disabled list with an RBI double in the sixth, and then mashed his 12th home run of the season -- and first since May 27 -- with a solo shot in the eighth.

"It felt good to put a couple good swings on the ball," said Morse. "In the big picture, though, we still didn't come out with the win, so we'll try to get them tomorrow."

All that offense couldn't overcome another tough pitching night. Harang was in trouble early as the Orioles loaded the bases with a single and two walks in the first inning, then unloaded them on a two-RBI double by Adam Jones that was misplayed in the corner by Ibanez to allow a third run to score.

Jones crossed the plate moments later on a sacrifice fly by Matt Wieters as the Orioles posted a 4-0 lead before Harang got out of the frame.

On the heels of Thursday's six-run meltdown in the ninth inning at Boston, it was a tough stretch for Mariners pitchers. Between that ninth inning and Friday's first frame, Seattle gave up 10 runs on nine hits and four walks while getting just four outs.

Harang said his upper back felt tight in the first inning and he struggled with his command.

"I had a hard time getting loose," said the 35-year-old right-hander. "When your upper back is tight, it's hard to get extension, it's hard to feel like you have control out there. I was pulling a lot of balls trying to overcompensate.

"In the third inning, I came in and the trainers adjusted me and I felt a lot better. But that first inning killed us. The two walks killed us. When you go out there and don't have a feel early in the game, it's tough. Right out of the chute, it becomes a grind and you've got to battle through it."

The Mariners fought back against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, with a three-run third inning highlighted by Saunders' opposite-field home run, his eighth of the season.

Baltimore answered with a pair of solo home runs -- a moon shot by Davis that cleared the right-field bleachers and landed on Eutaw Street, his 40th of the season, and a wall-scraper by Ryan Flaherty that required an umpire's review -- to bump the margin back to 6-3.

Quintero, making just his third start at catcher for the Mariners since being picked up a week earlier, drove a homer of his own to straightaway center in the fifth as Seattle tried to stay close. But any hopes for a comeback went south when Maurer replaced Harang in the sixth and immediately gave up three singles and then McLouth's slam to make it 11-6.

Harang gave up seven hits and seven runs in five innings as he fell to 5-10 with a 5.27 ERA. Maurer settled down after his own rough first inning and didn't allow a hit in his final two frames.

The Mariners got six runs in 5 1/3 innings off Tillman, who'd allowed just three in 27 2/3 innings in four previous starts against his former club. But Tillman still got the win, as he left with a 7-6 lead. The 25-year-old is now 14-3 with a 3.89 ERA on the season and 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA in five career starts against Seattle.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.