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Originally published Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11:02 PM

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Ugly first inning dooms Mariners in 7-2 loss to Baltimore

At Safeco Field Tuesday night, 13,629 fans watched Seattle's three-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Wednesday

Baltimore @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

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Before Tuesday's game, Mariners manager Eric Wedge praised rookie Brandon Maurer for learning from "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of his first five major-league starts.

Then Maurer went out to face the Orioles in start No. 6, and in the first inning experienced a lot of bad and ugly, but not much good.

"I was rushing quite a bit today," said Maurer, who added that it took him longer than normal to get loose before the game. "I needed to settle down, take a deep breath, and throw better strikes."

By the time he had gotten his third out of the first frame, Maurer had thrown 32 pitches (two of them wild) and allowed four runs. That rocky start sent the Mariners irreversibly toward a 7-2 loss at Safeco Field, where 13,629 fans watched Seattle's three-game win streak come to a screeching halt.

The one solace for Wedge was that Maurer persevered through four innings, whereas in his first Safeco start, he didn't make it out of the first inning against Houston.

"They came out real aggressive against him, and things happened quick there," Wedge said. "The positives of it are one, he did get through it. They did score some runs, but when he was in that situation earlier in the year, he didn't get through it.

"On top of that, he was able to go out there and throw three scoreless innings. I think him getting through that first inning and throwing up three zeros to get us to the middle of the ballgame was another step for him. He didn't give in to it and found a way to make some adjustments."

Maurer said he began to counter the Orioles' aggressiveness by throwing more first-pitch breaking balls.

"I've got to go out there next time and not even worry about this one," he said.

Orioles starter Jason Hammel, a graduate of South Kitsap High School, worked five-plus innings to get his fourth win for Baltimore. He blanked the Mariners on four hits for the first five innings before giving up a leadoff homer to Michael Morse — his eighth of the season — to start the sixth.

Hammel exited after giving up two singles, and when replacement Tommy Hunter was greeted with a single by Dustin Ackley, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, the Mariners had the bases loaded, no outs, and comeback on their minds.

But they could net just one more run out of that promising setup, that coming on Kelly Shoppach's fielder's choice. Wedge let Brendan Ryan, hitting .151, bat for himself with runners on the corners. Ryan shattered his bat and grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Wedge said he considered hitting Raul Ibanez for Ryan but decided against it. He made that move instead with two on in the eighth, and as expected Baltimore manager Buck Showalter called for a lefty, Brian Matusz. The left-handed hitting Ibanez fouled out.

"With the game where it was, you're hoping you have a better situation later and it's a closer ballgame," Wedge said. "If you go there in the sixth inning, it's a two-player move, and it's going to be a left on left situation. Even best case scenario, you're still going to be down by a couple runs, and then you're tied up late.

"You're hoping you get a little closer in the next couple of innings and you can use him in a situation where it's more meaningful. But either way, Raul is going to face a left-hander."

For Maurer, who had given up just three earned runs in his previous 17 innings after two ragged starts to begin his major-league career, he struggled from the outset. Leadoff hitter Nate McLouth ripped a homer to right, and 20-year-old Manny Machado scorched a double to left.

"I mean, it was a terrible pitch," Maurer said of the homer. "I tried to throw a two-seam inside, and it stayed right up down the middle."

Two wild pitches by Maurer led to a second Baltimore run, and Nick Markakis singled. Adam Jones struck out, but Chris Davis walked, and Matt Wieters lashed a two-run double down the right-field line.

With the Mariners' bullpen already heating up, Maurer got the final two outs, but the damage had been done.

Maurer recovered to make it through four innings before turning the game over to Blake Beavan. He allowed two runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh, giving up six hits in 2-1/3 innings. Beavan now has an 8.10 earned-run average in five relief appearances after posting an 8.44 ERA in two starts to lose his rotation spot.

After finishing Monday's 6-2 victory — a complete-game four-hitter by Joe Saunders — in two hours and 12 minutes, the two teams went at it for three hours and 35 minutes.

The Mariners had 10 hits, the fifth time in the past six games they've reached double figures. Ackley, Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales and Morse each had two.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

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