Wei-Yin Chen delivers a pitch during the first inning of Baltimore’s 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

There are times throughout a long baseball season when a starting pitcher simply doesn’t have anything.

It took four pitches in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays to recognize it might be that kind of afternoon for Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen.

Chen served up a homer to the first batter he faced, Desmond Jennings, then surrendered a pair of two-run shots in the second and fourth. He lasted just 31 / 3 innings — the shortest stint of his career — while allowing five runs, which matched a season high.

The three home runs allowed tied Chen’s career high while the loss snapped his streak of nine consecutive starts without a loss.

By the time he mercifully left the mound in front of an announced crowd of 36,387 in the fourth inning, Chen (7-3) and the Orioles were down 5-0.

“For every game, you don’t want to give up any home runs. We didn’t do that at the start of the season. I didn’t do anything differently. Lately, I’ve been leaving more pitches up in the zone,” Chen said through interpreter Louis Chao. “Maybe the opponents’ hitters are studying me more than they used to. So if I didn’t make the adjustment necessary, the results are going to look bad. So I’m going to look at that. I’m going to work on that and try to get a better result in the next few outings.”

Chen set the pace and the Orioles’ enigmatic offense shuffled along weakly until finally mounting a comeback attempt. The offense didn’t really challenge former Orioles lefty Erik Bedard until the eighth, when third baseman Manny Machado hit a two-run homer — his sixth of the year and second in two days — to make it interesting.

The Orioles (42-37) managed just five hits against Bedard and limped away with their second loss in three games at home against the team with baseball’s worst record.

Like usual, though, the Orioles at least kept the drama unfolding until late in the game.

Machado’s eighth-inning homer was followed by consecutive one-out singles by pinch-hitter Delmon Young and Nick Markakis and then a two-out RBI hit by Adam Jones to get the Orioles within one run. But Nelson Cruz flied out with runners on the corners to end the inning.

McGee then picked up his third save of the season with a perfect ninth — ending a game in which eight of nine runs scored via home runs.

The Rays (34-49) had homered just twice in their past nine games. They did it three times in four innings against Chen and have now accounted for five of the 15 homers allowed by him this year.

After Jennings led off a game with a longball for the seventh time in his career, Logan Forsythe smacked his first homer as a Ray in the second on a change-up.

In the fourth, No. 9 hitter Kevin Kiermaier also crushed a Chen change-up — this one to right field — to put the game out of reach.

“He missed four balls down the middle, and they hit them really hard, three for home runs,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “He had good stuff. He just kept missing up, especially with the off-speed stuff. Kept trying to grind it out but couldn’t get anything going.”

— Baltimore Sun