BALTIMORE (AP) – Texas Rangers right-hander Miles Mikolas didn’t show any nerves in his major league debut against the Baltimore Orioles.
Instead, Mikolas simply focused on keeping the Orioles’ powerful lineup off-balance by attacking the strike zone. However, the Rangers’ bullpen faltered as Adam Jones and Ryan Flaherty hit solo homers and Baltimore beat Texas for the third consecutive game, 6-4 on Wednesday night.
The Rangers have lost eight consecutive road games, their longest drought since 2005.
“It was a lot of fun being out there,” Mikolas said. “I thought I pitched a pretty good game up until the fifth. Then, I had some trouble with some walks. Things kind of didn’t go our way after that.”
Mikolas allowed three runs and three hits with four strikeouts and two walks over 5 1-3 innings. Texas (37-47) has used 11 starting pitchers this year, most in the American League. The Rangers have lost 13 of their past 16 games.
Baltimore stayed within one game of first-place Toronto, which beat Milwaukee 7-4, earlier Wednesday. The Orioles (45-39) moved six games over .500, equaling a season-high.
“That was really impressive,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That was one of the more impressive things I’ve seen, to be able to bring that intensity into a game like that. The whole group, I was real proud of them tonight.”
The game was delayed 1 hour and 38 minutes because of rain in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Jones hit his 16th home run of the season and had three RBIs. Flaherty, who started at third base in place of the suspended Manny Machado, hit his fourth homer of the season and also made several nice defensive plays.
Baltimore has homered in 12 consecutive games.
“We certainly had some opportunities,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
Orioles right-hander Brad Brach (2-0) entered in the sixth and earned the victory by throwing 1 1-3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Zach Britton earned his 11th save with a perfect ninth.
Staked to a 4-1 lead, Mikolas walked Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce with one out in the sixth. Jason Frasor entered and allowed a sacrifice fly to Jones and an RBI single to Nelson Cruz. He then walked Chris Davis before allowing a game-tying RBI single to J.J. Hardy.
Flaherty then provided the Orioles with their first lead, 5-4, hammering an offering from Neal Cotts (2-5) onto the flag court behind right field to lead off the seventh. Jones later added an insurance run that inning with a two-out single.
After winning his previous two starts, Baltimore right hander Chris Tillman struggled most of the game. He allowed four runs — three earned — and seven hits with two strikeouts and four walks over 5 2-3 innings.
Texas took a 1-0 lead in the first on a two-out RBI single by Alex Rios. In 18 starts, Tillman has given up 16 runs in the first inning.
Cruz, who leads the majors with 26 homers, appeared to tie the game with a towering shot in the bottom half of that inning before Leonys Martin made a leaping catch over the fence in center field.
“That was awesome,” Washington said. “He beat the ball to the fence, timed it perfectly and brought it back. Nelson can just swipe the ball in this ballpark and it will go a long ways.”
The Rangers added three runs in the next inning on a two-run double by Adrian Beltre and a run-scoring grounder by Rios that bounced of Tillman’s lower leg.
Jones homer in the fourth pulled the Orioles within 4-1.
“The game plan going in was don’t hold anything back. Go right at these hitters,” Mikolas said. “Great hitting team, but if I can attack the strike zone early then hopefully make them hit my pitches. Not get into counts where I had to pitch their game.”
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