Orioles firepower cools Bucs in interleague play

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 10:40 p.m.

BALTIMORE — The Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, upstarts this year in their respective division races, are following similar blueprints for success.

Both teams are trying to bust losing skids that stretch back to the 1990s. Both have been buoyed by strong starting rotations and stalwart bullpens.

There is, however, one important difference.

“They've probably got a little more firepower on offense,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

The Orioles cranked out 15 hits Tuesday, including home runs by Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones and Chris Davis, and beat the Pirates, 8-6 at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

The Pirates ended their four-game win streak and dropped one game behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.

The Orioles are among four teams that have six or more players who've hit at least seven home runs. The Pirates have Andrew McCutchen (11 homers), Pedro Alvarez (eight) ... and not much else. Last night, Casey McGehee hit his second homer and Neil Walker got his fourth.

Pirates starter Brad Lincoln (3-2) needed 87 pitches to navigate 4 13 innings. Plagued by poor command, the right-hander yielded four runs and nine hits.

“When you see guys putting swings on balls like that and doing damage, it means balls are up in the zone,” Lincoln said. “Missing spots got me today.”

In three spot starts this year, Lincoln is 1-2 with a 6.91 ERA. He was dazzling May 14 in a 3-2 victory over the Miami Marlins, but he hasn't been as sharp in his past two outings.

With only two effective pitches most nights, Lincoln, a former first-round pick, is better suited for a bullpen role. Before this season, Lincoln went 4-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 19 starts. In 19 career relief outings, he is 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA.

Lincoln is slated to start Sunday against the Cleveland Indians, and there is the possibility of another spot start after that. Neither Charlie Morton (elbow) nor Jeff Karstens (shoulder, hip) is close to being ready to come off the disabled list.

“We need (Lincoln) to pitch better, and he knows that,” Hurdle said. “We have to make sure he's not just out there trying to pace himself. He was so good when he was very aggressive. We haven't seen the velocity the last couple times. We need to get him back on track, and we're going to keep him in the rotation.”

The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against right-hander Wei-Yin Chen (6-2). With two outs, Andrew McCutchen reached on an infield single and stole second. He scored on Matt Hague's bouncing single up the middle.

Jones led off the bottom of the second with a squared-up double to left field. With one out and Jones at third, Lincoln struck out Wilson Betemit. But Reynolds blasted a 2-0 pitch into the left field seats.

The Orioles got another two-out run in the third on consecutive singles by J.J. Hardy, Davis and Jones.

“Definitely frustrating,” Lincoln said. “I need to focus more, bear down and put guys away.”

In the fifth, Jones launched a solo homer to left. That made it 4-1 and knocked Lincoln out of the game.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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