Thursday at Camden Yards was supposed to be about third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles' top hitting prospect, who was making his big league debut directly out of Double-A.
Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen turned in the worst start of his brief big league career in an 8-2 bashing by the Royals that ended the Orioles' five-game winning streak before an announced 21,226.
Machado did his part with a two-hit night, including a triple for his first big league hit.
“Would've been way, much better if we had come out with the win,” said Machado, who played third base and batted ninth.
The Orioles' offense couldn't provide nearly enough after the usually reliable Chen got ambushed early. He allowed a homer on his second pitch of the game to Alex Gordon. Three batters later, Billy Butler continued his assault against the Orioles with a three-run homer, his 23rd long ball of the season. He was down 4-0 before getting an out.
“That was a lesson I needed to learn today. I feel like my fastball, again, was so straight today,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “There's no life on my fastball and they are definitely really good hitters with a really good lineup today and they hit the ball really well. That's the only thing I can say.”
Chan gave up a career-worst seven earned runs in just 42/3 innings after allowing seven earned runs in his previous five starts combined.
It was the fifth time this season the Orioles (60-52) attempted to win a season-best sixth straight. And the fifth time they couldn't get it done. They dropped 51/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East and are now tied with the Detroit Tigers for the second AL Wild Card spot, a half-game behind the Oakland A's.
But there were some moments to remember. When the 20-year-old Machado walked onto the Camden Yards' grass to warm up before his much-anticipated major league debut, the early arriving fans screamed, and the club's veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy offered some words of wisdom.
“Fans started clapping as soon as I walked out. It was just a great feeling,” said Machado, the club's first-round pick in 2010 who was promoted Thursday from Double-A Bowie. “J.J. was out there and he started laughing at me. [He said], ‘Sink it in. The fans love you here. Just sink it in. Same game. Just go out there and have fun.'”
After grounding out in his first at-bat, Machado tripled to right-center against Royals' rookie left-hander Will Smith in the fifth. Moments later he scored the first run of his career and the first for the Orioles on the night by dashing home on a sinking sacrifice fly to left by Nick Markakis.
Machado picked up his second hit in the seventh with an infield dribbler that second baseman Chris Getz couldn't handle. He popped up to end the game, going 2-for-4 with one run scored.
“I thought Manny did well. Presented himself well tonight,” Showalter said. “I'm proud of him. There was a nice calmness about him and a good start. He handled the situation well, all things considered.”
The Orioles plated just one more against Smith (3-4), who entered the contest with a 6.00 ERA in eight major-league starts and allowed just six hits and three walks in seven innings.
Matt Wieters hit his 16th homer of the season in the sixth against Smith – a solo shot that was his third in three games. He is now 7-for-18 with eight RBIs in this four-game homestand.
It was fitting that Wieters was the only Oriole besides Machado to have two hits Thursday considering the Orioles haven't had this much buzz around a debut since Wieters made his first start on May 29, 2009. He went hitless in that game, but tripled the next day for his first big-league knock.
Butler doubled in the third and tripled in fifth, when Markakis dove for a sinking liner that eluded him and bounced into the corner in right. It was the fourth triple of Butler's career and first since 2009.
Butler, who entered the night with a .329 average and .564 slugging percentage against the Orioles in 36 career games, had two chances to single and become the first Royal to hit for the cycle since Hall of Famer George Brett in 1990. He struck out in the seventh and in the ninth, however.
“Butler's one of the top five right-handed hitters in baseball,” Showalter said. “This guy is solid. You look at his track record. I try not to feel like he's picking on us. We made some good pitches on him the last couple at-bats, but we made some mistakes on him and good hitters are going to pounce on those.”
The fifth batter of the first hit a liner off Chen's left calf, but the lefty remained in the game, and settled down for a little bit. In the third, though, Chen (10-7) allowed consecutive RBI doubles, and then a sacrifice fly in the fifth before being pulled.
He just happened to have a bad outing on a night in which Machado was supposed to be the story.
“I definitely wanted to bring [Machado] a new hope, a new start,” Chen said. “But I didn't do my job, and I just couldn't do it.”