BALTIMORE -- Despite a prolonged slump, Orioles manager Buck Showalter -- citing previous success against Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson and a need to break up the right-handed bats in the lineup -- penciled Chris Davis in the cleanup spot on Tuesday night.
But Davis, who owns the second-worst slugging percentage in the Majors, didn't reward the effort. Instead, the first baseman went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts looking, the unsuccessful at-bats providing a microcosm for Baltimore's season-long struggle to score runs. Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Nationals marked the 11th time in 13 games the Orioles had been held to three or fewer runs.
"Frustration is a part of this game. It's a little more frustrating than it has been, but as a professional I won't let that just bring me down," center fielder Adam Jones said of the challenge to not pick apart every loss. "It's obviously a results-based business. People only care about the results, but the effort is there, and all the players can control is the effort. Once the ball is hit, it's out of our control."
Davis, who is making $22 million this season, has four homers in 48 games and is batting. 153. Making matters worse was looking across the dugout at former Oriole Mark Reynolds, who signed a late Minor League deal and already has 6 homers in his first 12 games with the Nationals. Reynolds went deep in the fourth inning off Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, who struggled to have a clean inning all night but held the Nats to just three runs.
"It seems like the whole night, I was kind of trying to minimize damage," said Bundy, who allowed 11 hits but managed to turn in his seventh quality start of the season. "It seemed like every inning was a tough inning and I had to battle. Just trying to limit damage."
Bundy, coming off a masterful complete game got several key strikeouts, helping the Nats strand nine on the night as the righty kept it close.
"In a lot of ways I thought this was obviously not as good statistically as last time, but this is a good example of why Dylan is Dylan," Showalter said. "You could tell he was not quite as crisp. How do you match the last outing? But to get us through six innings and only give up three runs, that was impressive. In a lot of ways, I was as proud of that effort as the other one when you've got everything working for you."
The O's trimmed the deficit to one in the fifth on Jones' double into center field. Chance Sisco scored on the play but third-base coach Bobby Dickerson waved around Jace Peterson, who was out easily on Trea Turner's relay throw.
Hellickson went five innings and held the Orioles to six hits, including Manny Machado's solo homer. Machado went toe to toe with Nationals superstar Bryce Harper as the pair of pending free agents each hit first-inning homers.
Machado has now hit safely in 43 of 55 games played and is batting .326. Harper went yard three pitches into the game, hitting his 17th homer of the year off Bundy in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Trey Mancini was hit by a pitch to give the Orioles a one-out baserunner and Joey Rickard's infield single put the go-ahead run on base. After Sean Doolittle struck out pinch-hitter Craig Gentry, Andrew Susac --batting for Sisco -- also struck out to end the game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
O's run themselves out of the fifth: The aggressive play to send Peterson home was a tough end to the inning with Machado on deck. But with first base open and Davis' struggles there was no telling if Hellickson would pitch to red-hot Machado or just walk him to get to Davis.
"They're going to walk Manny. I know Bobby [Dickerson], he's as good as there is, he manages the game right along with it. He took a chance to make them throw him out there," Showalter said. "It's one of those things, nobody talks about it if he's safe. I know Bobby and his thinking, he'll take a pop there, especially with as much trouble as we've had scoring runs."
Machado is hitting .367 with 10 homers in 25 home games. He has hit safely in 19 of 23 career games against the Nationals.
VALENCIA SCRATCHED, PATERNITY LIST POSSIBLE
Danny Valencia was a last-minute scratch from Tuesday's starting lineup as his pregnant wife was taken to the hospital to give birth. Valencia is a possibility for the paternity list, Showalter said.
HE SAID IT
"What can we lose? I look at it that way. What else bad can happen? Try it. Screw it. We've gotta try and do something different. Imagine if Turner short-hopped [the catcher] or he bobbled and we scored a run. Manny's probably gonna get walked. Hopefully, CD came up and drove everyone in. But obviously that scenario didn't happen. But I like the aggression on the basepaths. We need to do something and trying something different is good because we haven't hit well with men in scoring position. So when we get a hit, we gotta try and score them." -- Jones, on Dickeron's decision to Peterson in the fifth
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Nationals successfully challenged Michael A. Taylor's stolen-base attempt with one out in the top of the sixth. Taylor, originally ruled out, was found to have beaten the tag after a one-minute review.
The Orioles will send David Hess to the mound on Wednesday opposite Nats ace Max Scherzer. The O's rookie has been a bright spot and is coming off his best start yet. Hess tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays for his second win in three games. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.