BALTIMORE -- Sundays aren't the Orioles best days.
After a commanding win in the first two games of the series, Baltimore couldn't get on a roll -- both with the pitching and the offense -- in a listless afternoon contest. Even an animated Buck Showalter, who earned his first ejection this season on an overturned transfer play call in the seventh inning, wasn't enough to spark a comeback.
Instead, the first-place O's fell, 8-3, to the Cardinals, dropping to 3-7 on the year in home Sunday games as the first-place club has struggled to secure the final game of any weekend series at Camden Yards.
Baltimore, which got just five innings from starter Kevin Gausman, went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on base. The O's bullpen, which has been one of the best in baseball, gave up five runs in the underwhelming matinee that dropped the club to 18-22 in day games this season.
"My last three starts have all kind of been a grind," said Gausman, who set the tone for a less-than-ideal afternoon by O's pitching. "I've kind of been battling myself a little bit at times. I think part of it is I've been walking some guys in some bad situations. That's what I tried to do. I knew after the first inning, I probably wasn't going to go seven, possibly even six. So, I just kind of tried to pitch effectively when I was in there. I tried to keep them and us where we were at."
Down a run in the top of the seventh inning, things got heated. With one out, Orioles shortstop Ryan Flaherty dove to stop Jon Jay's ball and threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who lost the ball trying to remove it from his glove to pivot and throw to first base. The call was initially ruled as out at second base, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny requested a review and it was overturned.
Showalter immediately came running out gesturing and wanted to get in contact with the League's operating headquarters in New York. He was ejected not long after by second-base umpire Jeff Nelson, although Showalter kept arguing and using his hands animatedly until finally walking off the field to a standing ovation from the crowd of 27,779.
"They changed [the rule] out of spring, then they changed it back to the old rule. Today, it got changed back to the other one, so what are you going to do?," Showalter said. "It's one of the challenges you have when you've got... I think the [replay] system is kind of programmed for one or two guys in the big leagues a year, and now we've got eight or nine. Those same people in New York, too. The guy behind the plate was very challenged today. It might have been as challenging a game as we saw all year."
Gausman, who allowed a pair of runs in a 37-pitch first inning, got into trouble from the get-go as St. Louis tallied three straight singles to start the game and scored on Jhonny Peralta's RBI into center field. He then issued a one-out walk to Jon Jay, but got out of further trouble thanks to center fielder Adam Jones, who retired Oscar Taveras and threw home to nail Matt Adams on the inning-ending double play.
Gausman was charged with three runs, but struck out six and was able to get through five frames on 104 pitches despite 11 baserunners.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn also had a rough first inning, but the O's were only able to plate one run. After a pair of singles from Nick Markakis, who tied a season high with four hits, and Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz doubled in a run. But Lynn got Chris Davis and Delmon Young to strike out.
"He's got that late-life fastball," Showalter said of Lynn. "He's got kind of like Koji [Uehara], that same type of fastball, everybody just sits there and says, 'It's just X miles an hour and it should be easy.' It's not that easy. You see that high percentage of fastballs thrown like he does, you know he's got one that people don't square up very easily."
After scoring a fifth-inning run, the O's chased Lynn from the game in the sixth, and moved within one on Markakis' RBI single off Randy Choate. But that's as close as they would get, with Machado popping up and Orioles lefties T.J. McFarland and Andrew Miller each allowing a run before Zach Britton gave up a three-run homer in the ninth to Peter Bourjos.
"That was really important [to keep adding on], especially with the offense that the Orioles have," said Cardinals third baseman Daniel Descalso. "We saw what they can do the last couple of nights. We had to keep pushing it to try and keep pace with them."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.