BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles sputtered into the All-Star break looking like a team that could really use a four-day vacation from baseball.
Despite getting two home runs from Adam Jones and a sharp pitching performance from Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles lost to Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals 3-2 Sunday.
Baltimore has dropped 10 of 13 to fall to .500 for the first time since June 14. The defending AL East champions were in first place with a 41-34 record before the current slide.
Coming off a six-game stretch in which they went 1 for 36 with runners in scoring position, the Orioles definitely need to escape the diamond.
“I want these guys to get as far away from it as they can, take some pride in the way they’ve competed and knowing that it’s still there for them,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think our best baseball is ahead of us.”
Scherzer (10-7) allowed only three hits over the first eight innings and allowed only three base runners until Jones homered with two outs in the ninth.
Drew Storen entered and struck out Chris Davis to earn his 27th save.
Scherzer outpitched Chen (4-5), who gave up three runs and eight hits in a career-high tying eight innings.
“He’s a great pitcher and a player that I respect a lot,” Chen, speaking through an interpreter, said of Scherzer. “Watching him pitch, I learn a lot from him. Today, his pitching was just great.”
Chen has a 2.78 ERA, but only four wins to show for it.
“Wei-Yin’s been solid for us,” Showalter acknowledged.
Scherzer was selected to the NL All-Star team, but he chose not to pitch in Tuesday’s game. Though the right-hander certainly deserves a chance to show his stuff on the grand stage in Cincinnati, the Nationals gave him a $210 million, seven-year contract in January to help the team win the NL East and excel in the postseason.
“He’s a team guy,” Washington’s Dan Uggla said. “There is never a doubt he wanted to pitch today, although I’m sure he wanted to pitch in the All-Star Game. The team came first.”
Scherzer has accounted for more than a fifth of first-place Washington’s 48 wins, and his 2.11 ERA ranks among the league leaders.
Yunel Escobar had three hits and scored a run for the Nationals, who won two of three from their neighboring rivals.
This game started well for Baltimore, performing before a third straight sellout crowd at Camden Yards.
With runners on second and third with two outs in the top of the first, Davis made a nice running catch of Wilson Ramos’ liner to right-center.
Scherzer struck out the first two batters in the bottom half before Jones hit a 1-2 pitch into the seats in left field.
Jones’ second homer was his 180th with the Orioles, pushing him past Frank Robinson into eighth place on the team’s list.
Washington used three straight two-out hits to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth. After singles by Escobar and Clint Robinson put runners on first and second, Uggla singled in a run and Tyler Moore followed with a two-run double.
Scherzer made the lead stand up to avoid a third straight loss for the first time since May 2010.
The Orioles lead the series 36-32, including 23-14 at home. They meet for three games in Washington in September. The Nationals’ lone series win over a season came in 2007.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (oblique) won’t return from his second stint on the DL unless he’s close to 100 percent. “He’s healing up. Don’t want to rush him,” manager Matt Williams said.
Orioles: Davis was back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a stomach virus.
Nationals: Washington returns from the break Friday to launch a three-game series against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Orioles: Baltimore opens the second half with a nine-game road trip that begins Friday night in Detroit.
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)