Nelson Cruz continued his torrid pace to begin the season as he launched two more CruzMissiles on Wednesday night, but they were not enough as the Baltimore Orioles dropped the rubber match of their three game series with the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3.
Baltimore had climbed their way back into the game with runs in the sixth and seventh innings to cut the deficit to 4-3, but reliever Brad Brach allowed hits to the first two batters of the eighth (his second inning of work) and was replaced by Brian Matusz. Coming into the outing, Matusz had allowed just one inherited runner to score all season, but he proceeded to give up a RBI single to Rickie Weeks and then a three run home run to Khris Davis and the Orioles saw a one run deficit turn to five just like that.
The loss was not completely on the bullpen either however, as starter Bud Norris (3-5) would even tell you that he needed to be better Wednesday Night. Norris got himself in early trouble with a high pitch count as he threw 50 pitches over the first two innings and allowed at least one run in each of the first three innings as well.
It was ultimately the walk that did Norris in early as he walked three in the first three innings and two of those came around to score, while the one hit batsman also scored. Norris did settle down after the third as he fired three straight scoreless frames to give the Orioles six much needed innings. When his night was done, Norris had tossed six innings, while allowing four runs on five hits, three walks, one HBP and one strikeout.
Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo kept the Orioles offense in check, well everyone not named Nelson Cruz, as Gallardo tossed 6 2/3 innings, while allowing three runs on four hits, five walks and five strikeouts. Two of the four hits he allowed were Cruz solo home runs, which one came in the second and the other in the sixth.
The Orioles had two golden opportunities to put some runs on the board, but missed out on both. Gallardo walked three straight hitters with two outs to load the bases in the fourth inning for Jonathan Schoop, but Schoop grounded out to second to end the threat. Later on in the seventh, which the Orioles did score a run on a Manny Machado RBI single, the Birds had Chris Davis up at the plate with runners on second and third, two outs and trailing 4-3, but the tough lefty Will Smith struck out Davis to preserve the lead.
Cruz led the way offensively going 2-3 with two home runs, two RBI, two runs scored and a walk, while Nick Markakis (2-4, 2B, R, BB) and JJ Hardy (2-3, BB) also had multi-hit games for the Birds.
Baltimore returns to action tonight as they begin a four game set in Houston to take on the red-hot Astros, yes you read that correctly as Houston has won five straight and 11 of their last 17 games. Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6) will get the start for the Orioles as he looks to rebound from his last two starts and will oppose Brad Peacock (1-4) with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 p.m. EST.
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