KANSAS CITY, Mo. –- As promising as the Orioles’ seven-game road trip to Texas and Kansas City was through their first four games, this was not the way they wanted it to end.
After winning the first four games, including a three-game sweep of the Rangers, the Orioles dropped their third straight game to the Royals in a 7-1 loss on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 17,675 to end their road trip 4-3.
“It started out great,” Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. “It started out real good here the first game. … Could we we have won a couple more? Yeah. But that’s baseball. That’s tough but we look at it a positive way. We came out 4-3 on the road trip, above .500, and we’ll take that.”
With the division-leading Boston Red Sox coming to Camden Yards this weekend for a three-game series that starts Friday night, the Orioles were scheduled to arrive back in Baltimore around 3:30 a.m. Friday while the Red Sox had long been resting in their hotel.
With the loss, the Orioles (57-46) fell four games back of the Red Sox and 3 1/2 behind the second-place Tampa Bay Rays. Both were idle after their game Thursday in Boston was rained out.
“It’s a matter of putting it behind us,” Markakis said. “We have three important [games] going home against a team in our division and that’s ultimately what we play for. We’ve got to beat those guys to have a chance to go where we want to go, so we’ll put this behind us, come out tomorrow and look to take the first game.”
For the first four games of the road trip, the Orioles were impressive with runners in scoring position. But they scored just six runs in their final three games in Kansas City. Over those games, the Orioles were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
On Thursday, the top five hitters in the Orioles’ batting order were a combined 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts. Majors home run leader Chris Davis, who has gone seven games without a homer, was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts Thursday and was 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts the past three nights in Kansas City.
“We got 59 games left, we are getting close to that time of year and everybody knows it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Just unfortunate we couldn’t group anything together.”
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who entered the night with a string of eight straight quality starts, allowed a season-high six runs and suffered his shortest outing of the season, lasting just 4 2/3 innings.
Gonzalez (8-4), who had given the Orioles remarkable consistency, recorded the second shortest outing of his major league career. In 31 of his 33 big league starts, Gonzalez has gone at least five innings. The six runs the Royals (48-51) scored off Gonzalez matched his previous four starts combined over a span of 26 innings. And since returning from the disabled list with a right thumb blister on May 21, Gonzalez had been 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA.
“It was tough the first couple innings, guys getting on,” Gonzalez said. “I was behind in the count. I was up for the most part and the split-finger fastball wasn’t there tonight. All the other pitches were OK, but my fastball and my splitty weren’t there and they were taking advantage of that. Just fell behind counts and they scored early. It was tough afterwards.”
Former Orioles ace Jeremy Guthrie beat his former team for the second time this season, holding the Orioles to one run on six hits over six innings. In two starts against the Orioles this season, Guthrie (10-7) has pitched to a 1.50 ERA.
The Royals went up 2-0 in the first inning on three consecutive two-out hits against Gonzalez. He retired the first two batters he faced, then yielded a double to Billy Butler down the right-field line, followed by back-to-back run-scoring singles by Salvador Perez and David Lough.
After the Orioles stranded runners at the corners in the second inning, Kansas City manufactured another run in the third. Chris Getz hit a one-out double, moved to third on a bunt single by No. 9 hitter Jarrod Dyson and scored on Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly to center.
Following rookie Henry Urrutia’s two-out triple in the fifth, Brian Roberts followed with an RBI double into the left-center field gap.
Nate McLouth then lined a ball to left field that Gordon made a diving attempt at and was ruled a catch by third-base ump Bill Miller. Replays showed that Gordon trapped the ball, so the play cost the Orioles a run that would have made it a 3-2 game.
“It hit my glove, and when that happens, you kind of just see the ball,” Gordon said. “I came up and showed him. So I thought I caught it.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter sprinted out of the dugout to argue, and the umpiring crew assembled to discuss the play, but it remained a catch.
“You can talk about 10 other things you would have done to not make it matter,” Showalter said. “It’s always been that way until they get the [instant] replay down, to get those things right in the future. That’s part of it. That’s far from what the game was about.”
Gonzalez’s night ended abruptly in the fifth as the Royals plated three more runs. The first four batters of the inning reached base – Gordon’s RBI triple and Eric Hosmer’s run-scoring single were the daggers.
After issuing a walk to Butler, Gonzalez induced a 6-4-3 double-play ball from Perez, but that would be his final batter of the night.
But Hosmer, who moved to second on the walk and to third on the double-play, scored when the left-handed hitting Lough singled off left-hander Troy Patton to give the Royals a 6-1 lead.
Butler scored the Royals’ final run on his seventh homer of the season, a solo shot off right-hander Francisco Rodriguez in his Orioles debut.
With equipment bags quickly being packed inside the Orioles clubhouse, the O’s were ready to get back home. They have much time to regroup with the Red Sox awaiting their arrival in Baltimore Friday.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Gonzalez said. “You never want to go home with three losses in a row, but we are pretty confident about our pitching and we are going to shake it off and win some ballgames. … Our team has been doing great the whole year. This is just three games.”
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