They were just five outs away from gaining a game on the Boston Red Sox and pulling within 2 ½ games of the American League East lead, but the Orioles saw their lead quickly disappear into the Kansas City night.
And not much later, they watched the Royals storm out of the dugout at Kauffman Stadium to celebrate a 4-3 walk-off win in front of an announced crowd of 17,410.
Chen dominated the Royals for seven innings before Eric Hosmer’s game-tying homer in the eighth landed just in front of the fountains beyond the right-center field fence, Hosmer’s second homer of the night off Chen.
Orioles reliever Darren O’Day then allowed a run-scoring double in the ninth to shortstop Alcides Escobar that hit off the top of the left-field fence, just the second time in his last 11 outings he’s allowed a run, scoring David Lough from first and prompting a pile at home plate.
“I thought we were going to settle in for a nice extra-inning game there,” O’Day said. “It was a single and I made one bad pitch. That’s the nature of relief pitching. … You can’t miss your spots. If you miss your spots, you’re going to pay the price.”
The Orioles offense, which hit .340 (17-for-50) with runners in scoring position over its first four games since the All-Star break, was 0-for-6 Wednesday and 0-for-11 with 11 base runners left on over the last two games.
“I don’t really care about cycles,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m interested in today, tonight, scoring more runs than they do. Cycles, that’s for people who want to wallow around in some tendency. Change it. The next day. That’s what we hope to do tomorrow and split the series and have a good road trip.”
After winning the first four games of their seven-game road trip to Texas and Kansas City, the Orioles (57-45) have lost two straight. And they squandered an opportunity to pick up a game on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay 5-1 Wednesday, in the AL East standings.
For the second straight night, the Orioles wasted a quality start.
Chen held the Royals to one run on five hits over his first seven innings before Hosmer’s game-tying homer in the eighth. On the night, he allowed three runs on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings, his eighth quality start in 11 outings this season.
Two batters into the game, Chen allowed a solo homer to Hosmer. But after Billy Butler followed with a single, he retired 12 straight Royals and 16 of the next 17 hitters before a Butler double in the sixth.
“We played really well, this is how the Orioles play baseball,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “And unfortunately we didn’t win the ballgame and I’m not satisfied tonight because I think I can do stronger and win the ballgame next time. The next couple days I will try to work on an adjustment and try to come back stronger and hopefully we can win the ballgame next time."
The Orioles had opportunities to give Chen more run support against Royals starter Ervin Santana, who allowed three runs – one earned – over seven innings. Three rally-killing double plays were costly.
They opened the second inning with two base runners after a leadoff walk to Chris Davis and a fielding error on second baseman Chris Getz that put Matt Wieters at first But J.J. Hardy hit into 1-4-3 double play and Henry Urrutia lifted a ball that died at the warning track in right field for an out to end the inning.
The Orioles also led off the eighth inning with back-to-back singles by Brian Roberts and McLouth, but scraped just one run to take a 3-1 lead.
“We were killing the ball the past four games before that,” left fielder Nate McLouth said. “Ervin Santana is a good pitcher. I don’t know how many chances we had with runners in scoring position, but it didn’t seem like a ton. When we added that run in the eighth, I thought it was going to be pretty important. But they came back and got us so it was a tough night.”
With the way Chen was pitching, that seemed like it would be enough – until Hosmer hit his second homer of the game on Chen’s 107th and final pitch of the night.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters continued his second-half offensive surge, hitting a two-run homer off Santana in the fourth inning to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
The Royals got to Chen in the seventh, putting two on and one out, but Chen induced a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play from Getz.
With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, Lough hit a one-out single up the middle that hit O’Day’s calf and hit off the second base bag.
Escobar then lifted the first pitch deep to left field, where it hit off the landed off the top of the left-field wall and bounced back into left field. McLouth and Jones chased the ball, but Jones’ throw home was just late to get a sliding Lough.
“You don’t want to waste an effort like that,” said O’Day. “We scored an extra insurance run and he pitched really well. I think I was coming in for Butler either way so that was his last batter. Obviously it would have been great to get out of there and get Jim in the game. It’s not how it turned out. That’s why you play all the o