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Lackey unable to cool off hot-hitting Orioles

Cardinals grab early lead, but new starter struggles to keep O's in yard

BALTIMORE -- The Cardinals' 20-game Interleague schedule concludes on Sunday, though the sendoff can't come soon enough for a club eager to seek safe haven in spacious Marlins Park next week.

This stopover at Oriole Park in Camden Yards has thus far been disastrous, with the Orioles muscling their way to a 10-3 victory with the backing of another three home runs on Saturday. That ups their series tally to nine -- eight different players have contributed -- and boosts their Major League-leading total to 147.

The barrage of blasts has put a stall on the Cardinals' quest to keep pace with the Brewers, while also showcasing how the Orioles have built a comfortable lead in the American League East. Baltimore has scored in 10 of 16 innings on offense while becoming the first team since Colorado in June 2009 to tally double-digit scoring efforts against St. Louis on consecutive days.

Seventeen of those 22 runs have come via the long ball.

"When you're in a place where the ball is jumping, there is an urgency for every pitch," manager Mike Matheny said. "They play to this park well right now. I know that's not something they've necessarily been doing all season, but right now they're feeling it. We're struggling to find it."

After teeing off against three Cardinals pitchers in the series opener, the Orioles had their way with former divisional foe John Lackey on Saturday. In one of the worst statistical starts of Lackey's 12-year career, he gave up nine runs in five-plus innings. He had allowed just seven in his last four starts combined and hadn't endured a nine-run outing since 2011.

"For the most part, I got my butt kicked," Lackey said. "I didn't execute enough pitches. I didn't pitch well enough. … I'm OK with not having more American League starts."

Seemingly unbelievable given the events of the last two days, the Cardinals entered this series with the distinction of having allowed the fewest homers (71) of any pitching staff in the Majors. That means that 11 percent of their season total has come in a two-day span.

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph blasted the first one on Saturday with a two-run, second-inning homer that gave him a franchise record for most consecutive games (five) with a home run by a catcher.

Lackey, who opened the inning with a 2-0 lead, gave up three runs in the inning. He termed Joseph's hit as a "Baltimore home run," a swipe at the hitter-friendly dimensions in the Orioles' home park.

Nelson Cruz crushed his 30th homer of the season off a flat fastball in the third, and Delmon Young added a two-run shot in the fifth. It marked the 11th time in franchise history that the Cardinals have been stung for nine homers in a series -- and they are not out of it yet. The most recent two-day total of nine home runs allowed came back in May 2003, during a home series against the Pirates.

"We've faced their guy a few times because he was over in the American League, so that probably helps a little bit," Joseph said. "We knew that at some point this team was going to bust out."

The Orioles lead the Majors with 15 three-homer games this season. The Cardinals, in comparison, have had just one.

"This is a little different than Busch," said Daniel Descalso, who contributed a three-hit game in a rare start at short. "This is a little different than Busch. The ball carries well here. It's a fun place to hit in."

Matheny, wanting to limit the stress on his bullpen, tried to get Lackey to carry the game through the sixth. He couldn't. Three straight singles led to another run and Lackey's exit. Lackey, making his second start for the Cardinals since being dealt from Boston, had entered the day with a 3.64 ERA and eight home runs allowed in 12 previous starts at Oriole Park.

"When you have confidence going as an entire lineup, it doesn't matter who is pitching," Matheny said of the Orioles. "John went out there and worked and fought to keep us in there. They just kept swinging it."

The Cardinals' offense set Lackey up with an early lead, using Jhonny Peralta's two-out RBI double and Jon Jay's two-out homer to briefly go ahead, 2-0. Peralta's double nearly scored two, though Matt Holliday was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. The call was confirmed via replay.

The club would only score once more off Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who had missed the last month due to a sprained right ankle. He had walked 60 in 99 2/3 innings before Saturday and walked two of the first three batters he faced in his return from the disabled list.

The Cardinals would walk just once more in Jimenez's six-inning start.

"You always hope for more," Matheny said. "We're not going out there to score one an inning. We're hoping for big innings, especially when we do see the ball jump. There was probably more [to be had], but we have to have those big hits in order for that to happen."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.
Read More: St. Louis Cardinals, John Lackey