The starter didn’t get out of the fourth inning in a 7-6 loss to open a series in Baltimore.

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BALTIMORE — Move a few games forward, drop a couple games back. The Mariners’ two-step around the .500 mark continued with another loss — their third in a row — and no significant signs that this partner-less dance will yield anything but the same inconsistency that’s been exhibited this season.

After failing to put up much offense in the series loss to the Yankees over the weekend, the Mariners’ bats, specifically Ben Gamel, came alive at Camden Yards. But the six runs scored and Gamel’s career-high five RBI were wasted with an abysmal starting-pitching performance from starter Marco Gonzales and a few runs allowed late in a 7-6 loss to the Orioles.

Gamel broke out of a minor funk at the plate with one of his best games as a Mariner, blasting a three-run homer in the fourth inning and a two-run single in the sixth inning.

“I was just trying slow everything down,” Gamel said of his approach.

Unfortunately, the Mariners needed more. And they shouldn’t have. Coming into the game, the Mariners were 43-6 when scoring six runs or more. Now, they are 43-7.

How?

Gonzales gave the Mariners another substandard start, pitching 31/3 innings and giving up five runs on eight hits with two walks and two strikes. After his first time through the Orioles lineup, he struggled to throw quality strikes early in counts and avoid falling behind. And that’s an issue for someone that relies more on pitch ability than stuff.

“Obviously, they were on Marco from the very start tonight,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “We did get some big production tonight from our offense. We just couldn’t keep them quite there. Some positives signs from our offense, no doubt. But obviously not enough.”

In five starts this season, Gonzales has never pitched a full five innings. While the injury issues with the Mariners’ starting pitching are well documented and a hindrance, it’s difficult to see how Gonzales’ spot in the rotation is productive for a team clinging to the wild-card dream. With rosters expanding on Sept. 1, could Servais make a change for Gonzales’ next turn in the rotation?

“We’ll see,” Servais said. “We’ll talk about it. I certainly like a lot of things he does. He’s just struggled putting hitters away. When he’s not right on his spots, they have good swings. We’ll take a look at it. We’ll continue to work with him. He has a bright future, but it’s not clicking right now.”

Gonzales was visibly bothered by his outing. Facing the Orioles for the second time in three starts, he came in prepared to attack the Orioles’ array of right-handed hitters.

“Out of my starts, tonight I felt the most confident in my stuff,” he said. “That’s the most frustrating part. Between my last start and tonight, I thought I made some good adjustments and some good improvements with Mel (Stottlemyre Jr.) and the staff. I’ve been working and busting my ass to do the little things right. I felt like I had my best stuff. My velocity was there and my breaking pitch was there.”

But the results were not.

After working a quick 1-2-3 first inning, Gonzales found nothing but baserunners, hits and runs in the rest of his limited outing. After being given a 1-0 lead, he gave it right back in the second inning. A lead-off walk and three straight one-out singles led to a pair of runs.

Baltimore added another run in the third inning on a RBI single from Jonathan Schoop to make it 3-1.

Again Gonzales’ teammates gave him a lead to work with on Gamel’s three-run homer in top of the fourth. Instead, his outing fell apart in the bottom of the frame. Gonzales got just one out and gave up two more runs on a RBI single to No. 9 hitter Craig Gentry and a bases-loaded hit by pitch that ended his night.

After having some initial success by working his fastball in on their hands to keep them off his changeup, Gonzales watched as that plan no longer worked.

“They were a little more patient, the second and third time through,” he said. “Small adjustment they made. I was trying to get them off the plate and they made the adjustment.”

Christian Bergman cleaned up the mess, retiring the next two batters without allowing any more damage. But neither he nor his replacment, Emilio Pagan, could keep the Orioles scoreless.

Bergman gave up a solo homer Adam Jones in the fifth inning and pitched into a bases loaded one-out jam that Pagan worked out of for him in the sixth.

The Orioles took the lead in the seventh when Trey Mancini singled and Chris Davis doubled into the right field corner.

“I missed down,” Pagan said. “He’s a good hitter and he made me pay for it.”