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Orioles try to get themselves untracked versus Pittsburgh

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Baltimore Orioles are in Pittsburgh for a brief two- game series against the Pirates this week, beginning with Tuesday night's opener at PNC Park.

Despite losing six of its last eight games, Baltimore (22-20) is still just a half-game back of the American League East-leading New York Yankees. After winning the first two legs of a four-game set at Kansas City, the Orioles dropped the final two games over the weekend to settle for the split.

Following Saturday's 1-0 setback, the Orioles were out-muscled in Sunday's 8-6 final. Kansas City's Alex Gordon was the difference, as he hit a pair of three-run homers. O's starter Ubaldo Jimenez fanned seven batters but gave up five runs on eight hits over five innings of work.

Jimenez entered with a 0.46 ERA over 19 2/3 innings in the month of May, and he had allowed just one home run in 162 at-bats this season, but he left a pitch out over the middle of the plate against Gordon in the fifth inning.

"It was really just one pitch that I'm sure he would like to take back," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He was trying to go down and away to Gordon, but got it middle-in, the sweet part that you want to stay away from. That was uncharacteristic, but that's the way it happens at this level. There's a fine line."

Things got interesting in the top of the ninth when Adam Jones hit a three-run homer to make it a two-run game, but Baltimore's offense was unable to tack on any more runs.

"We fight to the end," Jones said. "I'm sure they didn't want to bring in their closer after being up by five."

Like the Orioles, Pittsburgh got the day off Monday after splitting a doubleheader with the Yankees on Sunday.

In the first game, starter Charlie Morton got himself into some early trouble as New York put three first-inning runs on the board. Neil Walker and Tony Sanchez both homered for the Bucs, but it was not enough as the Yankees went on to win, 4-3.

Pittsburgh exacted revenge with a 5-3 triumph in the second game. Utility man Josh Harrison hit the go-ahead homer in the seventh, then helped make the lead stand with a diving catch in left field in the eighth.

"Home runs are great, but any time you can make a play in the field and help out the pitcher, that's what we're there for," Harrison said. "On my first step, I knew I got the right read on it. I knew once I left my feet it was in my glove."

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole worked six innings and allowed three runs while striking out eight. It marked the team's first-ever win at Yankee Stadium in nine tries.

"We needed to win a game -- and we only had one opportunity left," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Hurdle will send left-hander Francisco Liriano to the mound for Tuesday's series opener. Liriano remains winless through nine starts this season, although the team has fared well in his starts. He struck out seven at Milwaukee on Wednesday as he went six innings and allowed only one earned run. It was the fifth straight start that Liriano left with a no-decision, although the Pirates have won each one of those outings.

For Baltimore, Miguel Gonzalez will try to build off a solid outing against Houston on May 10, in which he yielded just two earned runs in seven innings to go along with six strikeouts. Gonzalez, who is third on the team with 35 strikeouts, also worked two innings of relief against Detroit on Wednesday.

These teams last met in 2012 when Baltimore swept a three-game series over the Bucs.