CHICAGO — When left-hander Cole Irvin thinks back on his third inning Friday, he fully accepts the first two long balls that sailed off the bats of Chicago Cubs hitters into the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field. They were, after all, left over the heart of the zone in what Irvin admits was a “bad location” for each.

The third home run of the frame, however, is harder to stomach. His changeup, he said, is his “bread and butter.” Apart from the Orioles starter’s four-seam fastball, Irvin uses his changeup more than any other pitch in his arsenal. But even with a good placement, spotted low in the zone, Cubs center fielder Christopher Morel jumped all over the offering anyway and powered it for the third run of the third inning.

It’s those three pitches — two mistakes and one in which he was plainly beaten — that sum up Irvin’s second start since returning to the major leagues with Baltimore. Beyond him, the Orioles’ bullpen imploded and allowed seven runs in the eventual 10-3 loss, but more attention might be paid to Irvin because he was one of two starting pitching acquisitions this winter.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias traded infield prospect Darell Hernaiz to the Oakland Athletics to receive Irvin, an innings-eater who soaked up 359 1/3 innings across his previous two seasons.

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But Irvin hasn’t been able to do that with Baltimore (43-26) yet. He was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after three lackluster starts, returned and featured out of the bullpen once before he was sent down again, and has now come back in the hopes that he can provide some stability.

Last week, Irvin found it with one run against him in 5 1/3 innings in a win over the Kansas City Royals.

On Friday, though, Irvin pitched into the fifth but didn’t complete an out in the frame. Manager Brandon Hyde oped to remove him before Irvin faced the Cubs’ lineup for a third time, despite sitting at 68 pitches.

“Those decisions aren’t up to me,” Irvin said. “As much as I’d like to stay in that game and somehow, some way, show the team that I can pitch here and provide the team innings, that just wasn’t dealt in those cards, I guess. Just trying to show that I can make the turn in the rotation and do my job, and I felt that I did that, just outside that one inning. Honestly, it was a couple bad pitches, so I can look at that outing and see a lot of success in it.”

Despite the shortened start, Irvin left with Baltimore well in the game. Ryan O’Hearn’s double led to a run when Austin Hays drove him home in the fourth, and the deficit decreased to one run in the fifth through Jorge Mateo’s RBI double.

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Twice before the onslaught of the sixth inning, the Orioles stranded the potential tying run on third base. Those missed opportunities and the shortened start from Irvin melded into a dismal sixth in which Chicago plated six runs against three different pitchers.

Two walks from right-hander Mike Baumann to begin the sixth inning laid the groundwork for the poor frame from the Orioles’ bullpen. Hyde turned to left-hander Cionel Pérez against a right-handed-heavy lineup, yet he promptly balked the runners into scoring position. They both scored on a single from Ian Happ, and the floodgates opened.

“If we don’t balk there, it’s a double-play ball that Happ hits,” Hyde said. “The game might be a little different.”

Right-hander Reed Garrett was left with mop-up duty in an attempt to preserve the bullpen for the final two games of this series, but three runs crossed against him between the sixth and seventh innings.

The two runs against Pérez in 1/3 of an inning continues a worrisome patch for the southpaw. Last season, the 27-year-old compiled his best season as a major leaguer, pitching to a 1.40 ERA. But with Friday’s lackluster outing, his ERA has ballooned to 5.55 in 28 games, including a 2.05 WHIP. He’s out of options, which leaves Baltimore in a position to keep trotting him out there, searching for a change.

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It didn’t come Friday, for Pérez or for the rest of Baltimore’s pitching staff.

While Irvin can take positives away from his outing, he’ll be left thinking about three changeups that left the yard. And the rest of the Orioles’ bullpen will ponder a sixth inning that seemed to drag on and on, diminishing Baltimore’s chances with each run.

“It happens; it’s a crazy game. Things can kind of go sideways on you there,” said O’Hearn, who registered three hits. “Things spiral. We didn’t do a good job of limiting the damage there and getting out of it and stopping the bleeding, but it’s just one of those things. It happens. We’ll forget about today as soon as we get out of here and come back with a fresh perspective.”

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Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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