Baseball / Sports

Orioles lose ground in AL East with second straight loss to Chicago Cubs, 7-2

CHICAGO -- By the time the Orioles resumed play against the Chicago Cubs after a 3-hour, 9-minute rain delay Saturday, they knew that both teams chasing them in the American League East had won earlier in the day.

The famed out-of-town scoreboard at Wrigley Field showed that the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays had won their afternoon games. And while the Orioles have built a sizable division lead, their stumbles on Chicago's North Side, combined with the news that third baseman Manny Machado will miss rest of the season with right knee surgery, naturally invite some concern.

The Orioles had won eight straight series before heading out on their nine-game road trip, but their 7-2 loss to the Cubs, a club with little to play for other than pride at this point in the season, ensured that they would lose two of the three series away from Camden Yards.

The Orioles (73-54) still lead the Yankees by seven games and the Blue Jays by eight, and have baseball's best record since June 30, going 31-15 in that span. But after sweeping a three-game series against the White Sox on Chicago's South Side, the Orioles have scored just three runs in two games in their first trip here since 2008.

The Cubs (57-72), meanwhile, won their first series since taking two of three from the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 5-7.

Before the skies opened up to heavy rain, Orioles right-hander Bud Norris labored through a four-run second inning that was capped by Chris Coghlan's bases-loaded, three-run triple.

With the Orioles leading 2-1, Norris worked a full count to Coghlan before hanging an 88-mph pitch high in the zone that Coghlan sent into the right-field corner, clearing the bases and giving the Cubs the lead.

Two batters later, the game was delayed, but the Orioles managed just two hits once play resumed.

Entering the game after the lengthy delay for Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, right-hander Jason Grimm didn't allow a hit in three scoreless innings.

Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, relegated to a bullpen role earlier this week, took over for Norris after the rain delay, making his first relief appearance since his major league debut Sept. 26, 2006.

Even though Jimenez had gone 231 appearances between relief appearances, he allowed just one hit in his first three innings of work before allowing a two-out, RBI single to Chris Valaika in the sixth inning, giving the Cubs a 5-2 lead.

Command problems were partly responsible for the demotion of Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles during spring training, to the bullpen. And a leadoff walk to Ryan Sweeney came back to haunt him when he scored from second on Valaika's hit.

The Cubs added another run on Anthony Rizzo's leadoff homer in the seventh off reliever Tommy Hunter, and Logan Watkins followed with an RBI double in the eighth, also off Hunter.

The Orioles scored first, just three batters into the game, after getting back-to-back doubles from Steve Pearce and Adam Jones. They took a 2-0 lead on Norris' infield single in the second inning that scored J.J. Hardy.

The Orioles had five hits off Hendricks in two innings, including three doubles, but Hendricks' day was over after the rain delay.

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