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Orioles can’t complete sweep of Braves, lose 7-3

David Hess falters and the offense can’t keep up with the Braves in the final game of a six-game road trip.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If the Orioles were a competitive team, leaving Atlanta after taking two of three games against a division leader would be quite encouraging. But if the O’s want to come back from a 28-game division deficit, they need sweeps! Taking two of three from the Braves and completing a .500 road trip is pretty good for the 2018 Orioles despite losing to Atlanta 7-3 today, failing to complete a sweep.

David Hess (2-4) started for the Orioles for the eighth time this season and was not on his game. He struggled with putting hitters away and throwing strikes, throwing 63 of 93 pitches for strikes in four innings of work. Perhaps it was the hot weather (89 degrees at first pitch), but his ERA rose above five for the first time since his second start. His ERA over his past three starts is 11.25 and he’ll need to make the necessary adjustments to compete at this level.

Offensively, the O’s managed only six hits against Braves starter Brandon McCarthy (6-3) and three relievers. Trey Mancini collected two of those hits after missing some time this week with a sore neck.

Atlanta opened the scoring in the first inning after David Hess walked lead-off man Ender Inciarte. Ozzie Albies singled and both runners’ speed was on display as Inciarte advanced to third and Albies also moved into scoring position on the throw. Both runners scored on a Freddie Freeman single, giving Atlanta a 2-0 advantage before Hess recorded an out. Freeman moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Hess beared down and got out of the inning without further damage.

After Hess held the Braves scoreless in the second (though allowing a two-out double), the O’s plated their first run in the top of the third. Trey Mancini absolutely demolished a 3-2 breaking ball into the second deck leading off the frame. Unfortunately, the next three batters were retired in order.

After Mancini cut the Braves’ lead in half, that ever elusive shutdown inning eluded Hess in a frame where Atlanta’s speed and smart baserunning were on display. Albies singled and stole second on catcher’s return throw after a Freddie Freeman strikeout. Nick Markakis doubled him home and he and Tyler Flowers, who walked, both tagged up on a deep flyout to left-center. Both of those runners scored on a Charlie Culberson double, making the score 5-1.

The O’s had a chance in the fourth inning, when Adam Jones led off with a double. Manny Machado laced a bullet into right field that hung up for Markakis to catch, reminding us all that hitting a ball hard doesn’t guarantee good results. McCarthy retired Valencia and Davis to keep the score 5-1. David Hess bounced back after a brutal third inning and held the Braves scoreless in the bottom of the inning.

Baltimore did chip into Atlanta’s lead in the fifth inning. Trey Mancini singled off the right field wall with one out and nearly made it to second base when Austin Wynns grounded into a force out. Mark Trumbo pinch hit for Hess and continued his hot streak, bashing a two-run shot into the first row of the center field bleachers. Trumbo’s fifth homer in seven games brought the O’s within 5-3.

Mike Wright took over for David Hess in the bottom of the fifth and did a fantastic job. In three scoreless frames, he allowed two hits, hit a batter, and punched out three. After allowing three runs and recording four outs on May 12, Wright’s ERA sat at 9.15. Since then he has allowed runs in only three of his twelve outings and his ERA now sits at 5.36.

While Wright was holding Atlanta down, the O’s let some scoring opportunities get away and were victimized by some bad luck. Machado again hit a ball hard and got nothing to show for it, flying out to the back of the center field warning track to start the sixth inning. Valencia singled, but Chris Davis bounced into an inning-ending double play to end the inning. A double play also foiled the seventh inning, when Austin Wynns wasted a Mancini walk by hitting into a twin killing.

Jace Peterson appeared to have led off the eighth inning with an infield single, but shortstop Johan Camargo made a sensational leaping throw to retire the speedy Peterson by an eyelash. Colby Rasmus then rocketed a ground ball right to Freddie Freeman. Machado had an opportunity to tie the game after Adam Jones was hit by a pitch, but grounded out to third.

Atlanta’s lead became very comfortable in the eighth inning. Brad Brach came on to keep the O’s within two runs and retired the first two batters. After giving up a single to Camargo, Dansby Swanson pinch hit. Brach got two fastballs by Swanson and then inexplicably threw a change up to speed up the bat (Jim Palmer is rubbing off on me!). Swanson deposited the pitch into the right field stands to give Atlanta a 7-3 lead. This left Brach’s ERA at 3.90. A.J. Minter retired the O’s in order in the top of the ninth to secure the win for the Braves.

The O’s will fly home this afternoon and start a seven-game homestand tomorrow against Seattle and try to continue the momentum from their decent road trip. Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.72) will take the ball for the O’s and be opposed by Felix Hernandez (6-6, 5.14).