The typically sound Orioles defense didn't help starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards.
Center fielder Adam Jones dropped a fly ball on the first play of the game that led to an unearned run, and the Orioles botched a rundown play that opened the door for a two-run fifth inning in the 9-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals in front of an announced 38,368.
After finishing a 15-game stretch against American League East teams with a 9-6 record, the Orioles (12-12) dropped two of three from the Royals this weekend and lost their fifth series in their past six against the AL Central opponents.
“Hey, I think mistakes are going to happen,” Jones said. “As long as you made the mistakes aggressively, live with them. We live with our mistakes. We live with our success. You can’t be high when you do good and be low when you do bad. You’ve got to be on an even keel. Mistakes do happen. Just got to try and prevent them and eliminate them.”
The Orioles were outscored, 16-6, in the three-game series. They have scored three or fewer runs in 10 of their 11 games at Camden Yards this season. Overall, the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their first 24 games. They are 5-9 in those games.
Kansas City right-hander James Shields held the Orioles to just three hits over seven innings. No. 9 hitter David Lough’s infield single -- a weak popup that dropped between Shields and third baseman Mike Moustakas -- was the only hit Shields allowed in the first five innings.
“Can’t give him no wiggle room,” Jones said of Shields. “You give him a lead, he knows how to sustain it. Tip your cap to him. ... The song [says], ‘Mama says there’ll be days like this.’”
Second baseman Omar Infante had six RBIs for the Royals (12-12), tying a career high.
An Orioles lineup that led the major leagues in home runs last season with 212 has hit just 17 homers through 24 games this year -- including seven from Nelson Cruz, who provided the majority of the Orioles’ offense Sunday with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.
Gonzalez allowed four runs -- three earned -- and six hits, while striking out four batters and walking one. He matched a season high with six innings pitched.
“I actually thought he was carrying pretty good stuff,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Deserved a better fate. You give them, probably three runs we gave them? When facing somebody as good as Shields, and especially the stuff he was carrying today, there wasn't much margin for error. Pitching or defensively."
Over his previous three starts, Gonzalez has pitched to a 3.18 ERA after allowing seven runs over 3 1/3 innings in his first start of the season on the road against the Detroit Tigers.
“I made some good pitches when I needed to,” Gonzalez said. “The only guy who hurt us today was Infante, and you just need to make better pitches against guys like that. I felt like every inning there was someone at third base. It’s tough to pitch that way, too. I feel confident now with all my pitches. It’s falling into place.”
Kansas City center fielder Nori Aoki led off the game with a fly ball to center field that Jones dropped with the sun in his eyes, allowing Aoki to move to third base on the three-base error. Aoki scored the game’s first run on Infante’s RBI groundout to shortstop.
“The elements are the elements,” Jones said of the error, which snapped a streak of 142 straight errorless games for the three-time Gold Glove winner. “Missed it.”
Showalter said: “Adam's one of the best center fielders in the game. So I'm not going to lament that at all. He's been a rock for us out there.”
In the third inning, No. 9 hitter Jarrod Dyson led off with an infield single that ricocheted off Gonzalez’s leg and into the air. Dyson stole second base, advanced to third on a groundout back to Gonzalez and scored on Infante’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Following Alcides Escobar’s leadoff single in the fifth, the Orioles had Escobar in a rundown between first and second base, but first baseman Nick Markakis lobbed a throw over second baseman Steve Lombardozzi’s head.
Escobar would later score on Infante’s two-run double off the left-field fence, giving the Royals a 4-0 lead.
“We gave them some things we don't normally give them,” Showalter said. “You spot them, give them those type of things that they don't earn, with Shields on the mound, that's not a good combination.”
Cruz hit a two-run home run into the Orioles bullpen in left-center field on a 2-1 cutter from Shields to cut the Royals' lead to 4-2 in the fifth inning. His homer broke a streak of 40 2/3 straight innings without an Orioles home run at Camden Yards.
Over the Orioles' previous 10 games -- dating back to the beginning of their road series in Boston -- Cruz has driven in 18 of the team’s 51 runs, accounting for more than 35 percent of the club's offense.
Infante capped his day with a two-run homer to left field off Orioles reliever Evan Meek in the seventh as the Royals scored four runs with two outs in the inning.
The Royals added a pair of insurance runs three batters later when Alex Gordon followed back–to-back singles with a two-run double to the deepest part of center field that was out of Jones' reach. Moustakas’ two-out double in the eighth put Kansas City up, 9-2.
Markakis, who singled to lead off the ninth and moved to third on Delmon Young's pinch-hit double, scored the Orioles' final run on a wild pitch by the Royals' Greg Holland.
One of the few highlights of the afternoon was Lough’s leaping catch of a line drive into left-center field off the bat of Dyson.
Against his former team, Lough fully extended and snagged the ball in mid-air, drawing one of the loudest ovations of the day.