Mariners-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

Looking more and more like legitimate contenders in the AL, the Baltimore Orioles would love to see Zach Britton quickly find his form.

While the Seattle Mariners, in contrast, appear all but certain to miss the playoffs for an 11th consecutive season, Blake Beavan is enjoying the best stretch of his career.

Britton aims to get on track while Beavan tries to win a fifth consecutive start Tuesday night as the Orioles and Mariners continue a three-game set at Camden Yards.

After winning four of six on its recently completed trip, Baltimore (58-51) returned home to take Monday's series opener 3-1. Nick Markakis hit a two-run homer while Chris Tillman took a three-hit shutout into the eighth inning to extend the club's run of impressive pitching performances.

Sitting 5 1/2 games behind AL East-leading New York and very much in the mix for a wild-card berth, the second-place Orioles have won three in a row and allowed three runs over their last four games. They could, however, have trouble keeping things going with Britton (1-1, 8.35 ERA) on the hill.

Expected to provide a boost after spending the first half of the season on the disabled list (shoulder) and in the minors, Britton has struggled. Aside from throwing six scoreless innings in a 4-3 win at Cleveland on July 22, he's compiled a 12.41 ERA over his other three starts since returning July 17.

"Pitches that people pass at the Triple-A level, they don't pass that up here," manager Buck Showalter said. "Knowing Zach and what he needs to bring, he'll figure it out at some point in his career as a pitcher. We feel confident about that. It's just not happening right now. It's frustrating for him, and for us because we've seen glimpses of it."

Some of those came when Britton posted a 2.14 ERA in his first nine starts as a rookie last year, but he hasn't been nearly as effective in his last two outings.

The left-hander surrendered six runs over 5 2-3 innings during a 14-9 loss to Oakland on July 27, then gave up a season-high seven runs, seven hits and three walks over 2 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 12-3 defeat at Yankee Stadium.

"I think it's just overthinking things at times, not being in a good rhythm on the mound, a good pace in the game," he said.

"We're in the hunt, and I understand what I have to do to be at this level. I'm not getting it done right now. So I got to either do something, or somebody else is going to come up and find a way to do the job. And that's the way it should be."

Britton was lights out in his only previous appearance against the Mariners (51-60), giving up no runs, three hits and no walks over a career-high nine innings in a 2-1, 12-inning victory May 12, 2011.

He may need to be sharp again to keep up with Beavan (7-6, 5.06). The right-hander has won all four of his starts since getting called up from Triple-A Tacoma following a month-plus in the minors.

Beavan, who's compiled a 2.01 ERA during his last three outings, yielded three runs and seven hits over 7 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 5-3 victory over Toronto. He'll be getting his first look at an Orioles club that's won four straight and seven of nine in this series at home.

Since posting a season-best seven consecutive victories, Seattle has been limited to seven runs while dropping three of four.

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