BALTIMORE (AP) - Zach Britton launched his major league career by winning five of his first six starts and etching his name in the Baltimore Orioles record book.
Recently, he's looked every bit like a rookie pitcher - which wouldn't be so terrible if he hadn't raised expectations with his incredible start.
Britton gave up four runs in just under six innings, and the Orioles fell 6-2 to Kyle Lohse and the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
Britton (6-6) is 1-5 in his last 10 starts. His ERA is a respectable 3.38, but he's yielded 20 earned runs in his last six outings.
Against the Cardinals, the left-hander allowed seven hits and two walks in 5 2-3 innings in an appearance cut short by a 28-minute rain delay.
``This is a 23-year-old young man trying to establish himself in the big leagues with about half a year in Triple-A, and he's doing well,' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ``That's the top-hitting team in the National League. ... Who knows, maybe he could have finished the sixth and maybe the seventh. It's a process for him and he's doing some things real well and some things he'll do better as he goes forward.'
Britton became the first Orioles rookie starter to notch four wins in April. Even though he has only one win since May 1, Britton's confidence has not been shaken.
``There's a handful of starts I could have won easily,' he said. ``There are games that I haven't pitched well at all and deserved to lose. But at the same time, throughout some of these stretches I threw the ball well and it just hasn't worked out for me in the win-loss column.``'
J.J. Hardy homered for the Orioles, who trailed 6-0 before scoring twice off struggling reliever Ryan Franklin in the eighth. Nick Markakis went 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, tying a career high. He's batting .410 during that span.
Britton was outdone by Lohse, who pitched five shutout innings before being lifted after the rain delay.
Lohse (8-4) gave up four hits, walked one and was aided by two double plays. He threw only 69 pitches before a thunderstorm stopped play with St. Louis ahead 4-0 in the top of the sixth.
That ended Lohse's night. It certainly wasn't anything the Orioles did.
``I felt strong. I wish the rain didn't come,' Lohse said. ``I felt I could have gone quite a bit deeper than five. But you can't do anything about the weather.'
The Orioles, in turn, couldn't do much offensively against the crafty right-hander.
``It's tough to pull the trigger on those balls that start away, then come back over the plate,' Baltimore slugger Mark Reynolds said. ``We knew he was going to do it; we talked about it pregame. But going up there and executing is a different story. You've got to tip your hat to him because he pitched well tonight.'
It was only the second win in seven games for the Cardinals since three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols was placed on the disabled list with a broken left wrist. St. Louis was off Monday after being swept at home in a three-game series by Toronto.
It was the Cardinals' first regular-season game in Baltimore. The Orioles had hosted every other NL team since the introduction of interleague play in 1997.
Back from extended stays on the disabled list, David Freese and Nick Punto immediately made their presence felt by helping St. Louis go up 3-0 in the second inning. Freese started the uprising with a one-out infield hit and Colby Rasmus walked before Mark Hamilton, Punto and Ryan Theriot delivered successive two-out RBI singles.
Freese missed 51 games with a broken left hand and Punto sat out 38 games with a right forearm strain. Both were activated from the DL on Monday.
Rasmus connected in the sixth off Britton as the rain began to intensify.
In the seventh, Punto tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jon Jay before Matt Holliday hit his 10th home run of the season, a drive to center off Jason Berken.
After St. Louis reliever Lance Lynn struck out five in two innings, Hardy hit his 11th homer in the eighth. Markakis followed with a single and Adam Jones doubled in a run before Fernando Salas got the final five outs.
NOTES: Orioles RHP Alfredo Simon (strained right hamstring) is expected to come off the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, manager Buck Showalter said. ... Baltimore's Derrek Lee hit a second-inning single and now has 1,899 career hits. ... St. Louis improved to 5-5 against the AL. ... Chris Carpenter, who will start for the Cardinals on Wednesday night, last faced the Orioles in 2002 with Toronto. ... Hardy's 11 homers are four more than Baltimore shortstops totaled from 2008-10. ... Luke Scott robbed Holliday of a second home run with a leaping grab at the left-field wall in the ninth inning. Scott bruised his right knee on the play.
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