CHICAGO -- The printable version of what Orioles starter Tommy Hunter had to say while assessing Wednesday night's start, his worst in two seasons, boiled down to this: the right-hander needs to regain his fastball.
And, judging by the eight earned runs the White Sox tagged Hunter with in an 8-1 loss, the sooner the better.
"I've got a couple bullpens coming up and the emphasis is going to be down in the zone," said Hunter, who has allowed six home runs in his last two starts. "I'll find my fastball, I will find it. It will come. Just got to reach in my back pocket and pick it out. I don't know what it is. I don't know what happened [Wednesday night]. I got to figure it out, bottom line."
Hunter came out firing Wednesday night, striking out all three White Sox batters he faced in working with a one-run lead. But it all went downhill from there, as the 25-year-old never looked to be in rhythm, allowing nine hits and four walks over the next 4 2/3 innings, his worst start since July 30, 2010 as a member of the Rangers.
"Tommy kept backing himself into at-bats against the people you don't want to have people on base against," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "And that was really a killer because [Paul] Konerko and [A.J.] Pierzynski is as hot a hitter as there is in baseball right now. He's seeing the ball real well. And Konerko's been doing it for a long time. We kept backing ourselves into situations where the at-bat was coming to them and you can't keep doing that."
Hunter also painted himself in a corner, throwing offspeed after offspeed since he couldn't locate his fastball. The result of predictability wasn't pretty, as the Orioles dropped their first game in three contests in Chicago in front of a crowd of 13,818 at U.S. Cellular Field. Wednesday's loss also drops Baltimore to 4-2 on its three-city, 10-game road trip.
"[I] felt good in the first inning and then lost it," Hunter said. "[I] was up in the zone, ball didn't get down and I didn't make an adjustment."
Conversely, Chicago's starter Jake Peavy breezed through the Orioles' lineup, tossing seven innings of one-run baseball with eight strikeouts.
"You got to pick your team up when you've had a few tough ones like we had," said Peavy, who allowed only Endy Chavez's second-inning RBI double. "You understand the situation. I know it's early, but we lost three in a row and you need to get back in the win column and I was happy to be able to do that."
Peavy held the Orioles to just four hits, striking out eight and picking up back-to-back home wins for the first time since May 2010.
"You didn't see too many fastballs," Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis, who went 1-for-4, said of Peavy. "He had his off-speed stuff working and he threw it for strikes when he wanted to and when he needed to."
In the sixth inning a breakdown in communication caused lefty reliever Troy Patton -- on for Hunter with the bases loaded -- to throw a fastball to White Sox slugger Adam Dunn. Dunn sent the pitch, which catcher Matt Wieters put down as a breaking ball, screaming into left field for a bases-clearing double that added another trio of runs to Hunter's line.
Hunter opened that frame by hitting Alex Rios with a pitch and bottom-of-the-order batters Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham -- who snapped an 0-for-14 skid -- delivered a pair of one-out singles to let another run score. Hunter intentionally walked Alejandro De Aza and struck out Brent Morel -- tying his career-high with eight strikeouts -- before being lifted in favor of the left-handed Patton.
"We made some mental errors we can't do," Showalter said. "We had about three of them and we're better than that."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.