Brandon Maurer thought the first-inning woes that hampered the first two starts of his career were in the past. The last three outings had been an impressive turnaround for the Seattle rookie in his first month in the majors.
Trouble with the first inning returned on Tuesday night.
Nate McLouth led off the game with his second homer of the season, Baltimore battered Maurer for four runs in the first inning and the Orioles beat the Mariners 7-2.
McLouth blew a bubble with his gum as he rounded the bases. Over his last 10 games, the Orioles' leadoff man is hitting .485 and has scored 14 runs.
"I needed to settle and take deep breaths and throw better strikes," Maurer said. "You've got to notice they are (aggressive) and not throw a fastball first pitch or if you do, throw it outside, something that is not easy to hit."
The first two starts of Maurer's career were highlighted by struggles in the first inning. In his first home start against Houston, Maurer gave up six runs and seven hits and recorded just two outs.
But Maurer (2-4) had been outstanding over his previous three starts with a 2-1 record and a 1.89 ERA over 19 innings. It seemed to be proof that Seattle made the right decision going with the young right-hander out of spring training.
His performance against Baltimore was certainly a step back.
"He just wasn't executing pitches there in the first inning and with them being that aggressive up there, ready to hit, things happened quick," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
Baltimore didn't stop after McLouth's homer. Manny Machado followed with a double and scored after a pair of wild pitches by Maurer, both of which were sliders in the dirt that bounced away from catcher Kelly Shoppach and went to the backstop. Nick Markakis singled and Chris Davis walked before Matt Wieters capped Baltimore's big first inning with a two-run double.
The Orioles tacked on two more in the sixth on Chris Dickerson's first RBIs of the season and another in the seventh.
"I said coming in here we wanted to get him a game and get some at-bats under his belt. Chris has a lot of skills that we want to take advantage of and it's nice to get some production there," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Jason Hammel (4-1) pitched into the sixth, but failed to finish off the sixth for the first time this season despite holding a 6-0 lead. Hammel's pitch count topped 100 after giving up three hits to open the sixth.
Hammel allowed seven hits and two earned runs. He struck out five and walked three and knows the Orioles' starters need to start pitching deeper to give their bullpen a break.
For the second straight season, Hammel has been outstanding in the opening month. In April 2012, he went 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA.
"Six innings is not enough and that's what I've been camped at and today five innings," Hammel said. "I'm obviously very frustrated because that's not the way to build a winning team because after a while those innings will start to chew up a bullpen no matter how good they are and they've been outstanding."
Michael Morse opened the Seattle sixth with an opposite-field home run, his eighth of the season and second in three games. The Mariners then got consecutive singles from Jason Bay and Justin Smoak to chase Hammel, and Dustin Ackley greeted reliever Tommy Hunter with a third straight hit to load the bases.
Shoppach hit a weak grounder that scored Bay, but Ackley was forced out at second. Hunter then shattered Brendan Ryan's bat to start a double play that ended the inning with little damage.
"We had some chances to score some runs early and didn't get the hit," Shoppach said. "A couple of those innings we didn't get anyone on till two outs and it's tough to generate runs that way."
NOTES: Machado extended his hitting streak to nine games, tied for the longest by an Orioles player younger than 21. ... Seattle signed veteran OF Corey Patterson to a minor league contract on Tuesday and will send him to extended spring training in Arizona.