SEATTLE (AP) — Jason Hammel struggled to get loose on a chilly night and, with each inning dragging, never found a rhythm on the mound. It’s largely why the Baltimore starter didn’t make it through the sixth inning for the first time this season.
Fortunately for Hammel, Nate McLouth and the Orioles’ hitters gave him a healthy cushion from the start.
McLouth led off the game with his second homer of the season, Baltimore battered rookie Brandon Maurer for four runs in the first inning and the Orioles beat the Mariners 7-2 on Tuesday night.
McLouth blew a bubble with his gum as he rounded the bases. Over his last 10 games, he is hitting .485 and has scored 14 runs.
“Sometimes you hit them, sometimes you don’t. I was lucky to get us off to a good start tonight,” McLouth said. “It was nice to tack on those insurance runs because they have some guys who can do damage in their lineup if you let them hang around.”
Matt Wieters added a two-run double in the first and Chris Dickerson had his first two RBIs of the season with a two-run single in the sixth inning.
Hammel (4-1) pitched into the sixth with a 6-0 lead. His pitch count topped 100 after giving up three hits to open the inning.
Hammel allowed seven hits and two earned runs in five-plus innings. He struck out five and walked three and knows the Orioles’ starters need to start pitching deeper to give their bullpen a break.
For the second straight season, Hammel has been outstanding in the opening month. In April 2012, he went 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA.
“Six innings is not enough and that’s what I’ve been camped at and today five innings,” Hammel said. “I’m obviously very frustrated because that’s not the way to build a winning team because after a while those innings will start to chew up a bullpen no matter how good they are and they’ve been outstanding.”
Baltimore didn’t stop after McLouth’s homer. Manny Machado followed with a double and scored after a pair of wild pitches by Maurer, both of which were sliders in the dirt that bounced away from catcher Kelly Shoppach and went to the backstop. Nick Markakis singled and Chris Davis walked before Wieters capped Baltimore’s big first inning.
The Orioles tacked on two more in the sixth and another in the seventh.
J.J. Hardy singled with one out in the sixth and Ryan Flaherty followed with a drive to the wall in right-center that Michael Saunders couldn’t handle as he leaped on the warning track. Flaherty was credited with a double and both runners scored on Dickerson’s blooper over the drawn-in infield.
“I said coming in here we wanted to get him a game and get some at-bats under his belt. Chris has a lot of skills that we want to take advantage of and it’s nice to get some production there,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Baltimore added another in the seventh on Hardy’s single.
The first two starts of Maurer’s career were highlighted by struggles in the first inning. In his first home start against Houston, Maurer didn’t make it out of the first inning, giving up six runs on seven hits and recording just two outs.
Maurer (2-4) was headed down a similar path against the Orioles. Five of the first six batters reached base, prompting Blake Beavan to start warming up in the bullpen with just one out. Maurer got the final two outs of the first, but was done after four innings, giving up four runs on six hits.
“I was rushing quite a bit today. I needed to settle down and take some deep breaths and throw better strikes,” Maurer said.
Michael Morse opened the Seattle sixth with an opposite-field home run, his eighth of the season and second in three games. The Mariners then got consecutive singles from Jason Bay and Justin Smoak to chase Hammel, and Dustin Ackley greeted reliever Tommy Hunter with a third straight hit to load the bases.
Shoppach hit a weak grounder that scored Bay, but Ackley was forced out at second. Hunter then shattered Brendan Ryan’s bat to start a double play that ended the inning with little damage.
“We had some chances to score some runs early and didn’t get the hit,” Shoppach said.
NOTES: Machado extended his hitting streak to nine games, tied for the longest by an Orioles player younger than 21. … Seattle signed veteran OF Corey Patterson to a minor league contract on Tuesday and will send him to extended spring training in Arizona. … Baltimore optioned LHP Zach Britton to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. Britton was the losing pitcher in his season debut on Monday night.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)