The Orioles failed to extend their lead over the Blue Jays in the American League East, keeping it at 2 1/2 games following tonight’s 6-2 loss to the Nationals at Camden Yards.
The Nats hit three home runs, including two off Orioles starter Bud Norris, making his first start since coming off the disabled list. Norris was charged with five runs, tying his season-high, in four-plus innings.
“Arm strength was good, stuff was good. Just paid for the mistakes he made,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“We had a little trouble keeping the ball in the park. But hopefully it’s something physically to build on. We’ve seen what he’s capable of. He’ll get better as we go.”
Norris retired seven in a row before Ian Desmond’s homer in the fourth, but he struggled to find the same rhythm that allowed him to hold opponents to only two runs in three starts prior to going on the DL with a groin injury.
“Just kept waiting for him to kind of fall into a rhythm, but he never really seemed to get real comfortable,” Showalter said. “That will come. That’s why I was hoping to get him two starts before the break.
“I was hoping to get him somewhere between 80 and 90 (pitches), but Washington wouldn’t cooperate. We’ll see what Sunday brings.”
Was Norris rusty?
“It’s obviously some of it,” Showalter said. “As much as you do side work and sim games and stuff like that, there’s no substitute for the adrenaline and the challenge of facing major league hitters, especially ones as good as Washington has, so it will get better. We’ve seen what he’s capable of.”
“I thought Brad was good,” Showalter said. “I thought he struck out (Ryan) Zimmerman twice. Brad was real good again. And Brian Matusz gave us some needed length, so hopefully that bodes well for the availability of people tomorrow, and hopefully for Brian as we go forward. We’re going to need him.”
Manny Machado had three more hits, including his ninth home run. He’s got eight hits in his last 10 at-bats.
“I thought he and Chris (Davis) both have had some good at-bats the last couple games,” Showalter said. “Manny had what, three hits tonight? You can tell he looks a little more confident and in sync. You can just see the body language of it, he and Chris. It’s not always results.”
Machado’s leadoff single in the second inning was the 300th hit of his career. He’s 12-for-21 with two doubles, two home runs, three RBIs and four runs in his last four games. He’s batting .312 in his last 31 games since June 1, with eight doubles, seven homers, 15 RBIs and 15 runs.
“Manny has very quietly snuck up to .270 in a hurry,” Showalter said “That would be a nice thing to have if we could have him the last 70 some-odd games swinging it likes he’s capable.”
Nats starter Doug Fister allowed two runs over seven innings.
“Anytime you have that height and you’re able to create that plane and sink the ball, it’s real simple, the ball’s coming down at that angle and you’re trying to swing on a flat level,” Showalter said. “That’s why tall pitchers are in demand. If they can command something... and he’s got a tough angle.
“We didn’t get many balls in the air off him. Manny hit a changeup. We didn’t string much together. He threw a cutter, slider, depending on what type of break he wanted on it. And he worked both sides of it. Some things he’s been doing for a while.
“I really liked him when he was in Detroit. I was kind of glad to see him leave the league, but when he went to Washington, I knew we would be seeing him again. Very athletic, great shape, works fast, really creates a really good tempo and atmosphere for defense to be played behind him.”
Adam Jones has an eight-game home hitting streak, batting .481 (13-for-27) with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs. Overall, he’s hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games and 17 of 19.