BALTIMORE -- There have been late-game meltdowns and uninspiring offensive performances. Struggles with big-name sluggers and injury issues. But rookie right-hander David Hess has given Baltimore a bright spot in a frustrating start to the season.
Hess, who bested the Rays twice in his first three starts this season, clashed with Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Wednesday night at Camden Yards. And the young righty impressively held his own.
Hess held the National League East-leading Nationals to one run -- Bryce Harper's homer -- over six frames in a quality start that capped a stellar breakout month. That it came as part of a 2-0 series-sweeping loss -- that included eight dominant Scherzer innings -- shouldn't dampen the enthusiasm surrounding Hess.
"David Hess threw the ball outstanding tonight for a guy that's only been here a few days and to have only made a couple of starts," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. ''To go out there and go toe to toe with one of the best in the business says a lot about him and a little bit about the future of this club."
The month of May has belonged to the 24-year-old, who impressively pitched on three days' rest to win his Major League debut on May 12 vs. the Rays as part of a doubleheader. Hess succumbed to the long ball at Fenway Park in his next start but showed his ability to adapt on Friday against the Rays, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless to earn a celebratory shaving cream pie. Yes, there hasn't been much to cheer about at Camden Yards this season. But Hess -- who held the Nats to four hits -- deserves some appreciation as the homegrown arm has shown equal parts moxie and poise in his first few weeks.
"I think that the confidence is definitely growing. I think that with every start, I get a little bit smarter about what I need to do to have success and how to go about my business on an everyday basis," Hess said. "There's definitely progression with that and I'm excited that progression is coming to where it is right now."
Baltimore looked poised to potentially take Hess off the hook for the loss, putting a pair of runners on against closer Sean Doolittle in the ninth. But Craig Gentry -- who had a leadoff single -- was caught trying to steal third base with Manny Machado at the plate. And Doolittle rode the momentum of that easy out to pick up his 13th save.
"Obviously, there's a lot more to the game than that, but I understand," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the spotlight being on the Gentry baserunning blunder. "We didn't do much offensively for eight innings, either."
Following Harper's third-inning homer -- the slugger's 18th on the year -- Hess gave up a double to Anthony Rendon. But he stopped any further scoring, retiring Matt Adams on a popup.
The Orioles never got close to mounting anything off of Scherzer, as a slumping lineup mustered up just three baserunners and was no match for the reigning two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Scherzer recorded 12 strikeouts and held the Orioles to two hits on the night, only once allowing a runner to touch second base.
Davis' single marked the O's only hit for the first six innings until Manny Machado's one-out double in the seventh. Baltimore has now scored three or fewer runs in 13 of its past 15 games.
Reliever Miguel Castro allowed an RBI single to Juan Soto -- who had three hits on Tuesday -- for a seventh-inning insurance run.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ninth-inning rally comes up short: Gentry's leadoff ninth-inning single and Adam Jones' blooper into right field that Wilmer Difo couldn't grab set the table for Machado, who stepped to the plate with runners on first and second with none out. But Doolittle caught a big break when Gentry got caught trying to steal third for the first out. Machado then flied out and Doolittle got Jonathan Schoop to pop up to end the game.
"We haven't done a whole lot offensively, I'm not going to throw Craig under the bus," Showalter said of Gentry's decision. "It didn't work out. Nobody tries to do more to help this team than Craig Gentry every day.
"That's one that doesn't look good because of the results and the chance we had there. But we still had two more outs after that."
Orioles closer Zach Britton threw a scoreless inning in his first rehab outing, striking out the side for Class A Advanced Frederick.
HE SAID IT
"We obviously know that we're nowhere [near] where we want to be, and not even close. That's when you find out who the real players are in here, and that's when you find out really the guts of a team. I know there's been some talk about a rebuild and all that stuff. We've got to live in the here and now." -- Davis
The Orioles will open up a four-game set with the Yankees starting on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards. Andrew Cashner will get the ball opposite Yankees righty Sonny Gray. Cashner has had just one quality start in his past five outings. The righty struggled with his command in Saturday's loss to the Rays, allowing 11 hits and five earned runs over five innings.