BALTIMORE -- Before he went on the disabled list with a right groin strain, right-hander Bud Norris was becoming one of the Baltimore Orioles' most dependable starters.
Norris had won his previous four starts, and he had a 0.92 ERA over his last three outings.
But making his return from the DL on Wednesday night against the Washington Nationals, Norris struggled through his shortest outing of the season. He failed to get an out in the fifth inning, and Orioles pitchers gave up three homers in a 6-2 loss in front of an announced 35,575 at Camden Yards.
After Orioles fans flooded Nationals Park in orange Monday and waited through a flood Tuesday -- that game was postponed after a 21/2-hour rain delay -- the Orioles returned to Camden Yards to continue their matchup with the Nationals.
Norris, who hadn't pitched since leaving his start June 21 against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, allowed five runs -- tying a season-high -- in four innings plus two batters. He allowed six hits, struck out two hitters and walked one.
Norris entered the night having allowed 10 homers in 14 starts, the fewest among the Orioles' five starters, but he surrendered two home runs -- solo blasts by catcher Wilson Ramos and shortstop Ian Desmond -- on Wednesday.
Despite the loss, the Orioles remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, who lost, 8-7, to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
Coming off his first career five-hit game Monday in Washington, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado had three hits, including his ninth homer of the season. But an Orioles team that boasts the second-most homers in baseball left six runners on base.
Norris fell behind, 2-0, just four batters into the game, struggling through a 26-pitch first inning.
With one out, Anthony Rendon hit a ground-rule double down the right-field line. Jayson Werth then just missed a home run by a few feet, hitting a ball near the top of the grounds' crew shed in right field that stayed in the park for an RBI double.
Adam LaRoche then followed with a single just over second baseman Jonathan Schoop into right field to score Werth.
Nationals starter Doug Fister had his share of trouble early as well, needing 31 pitches to get through the first inning, but the Orioles scored just one run off him in the opening frame.
Steve Pearce and Nelson Cruz both drew walks off Fister (8-2) before Chris Davis hit a single to drive in Pearce with two outs. But J.J. Hardy flied out to left field to end the inning.
Ramos gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead in the top of the second inning, taking a waist-high 1-2 fastball deep into the left-field stands for his third homer of the season.
The Orioles (49-41) put the leadoff man on base in each of the next two innings, but they couldn't rally.
Machado turned on a 1-0 curveball in the third inning to homer for the second consecutive game. He has four home runs in his last six games. Since returning from his five-game suspension, Machado is 12-for-21.
Norris retired six straight following Ramos' homer before Ian Desmond hit his 16th homer of the season with one out in the fourth.
Norris (7-6), who had allowed just two runs in his last three starts over a span of 192/3 innings, was chased from the game two batters into the fifth after issuing a walk to No. 9 hitter Danny Espinosa and a single to Denard Span. Espinosa later scored, with the run charged to Norris, on a sacrifice fly by LaRoche.
Before the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he was considering limiting Norris on Wednesday so he could come back and start Sunday on short rest. Norris left Wednesday's game after just 71 pitches.
Trailing, 5-2, the Orioles had runners at the corners with one out, but Rendon snagged a sharp groundball at third base and began an inning-ending double play by Caleb Joseph. After Joseph's double play to end the sixth, the Orioles didn't have a base runner for the rest of the night against the Nationals (49-40).
Right-hander Brad Brach, who had earned the win in each of his last three relief appearances and had allowed just three hits over 52/3 innings in that span, held a 14-inning scoreless streak until it was snapped in the seventh on Jayson Werth's two-out solo homer.
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