On one pitch, Jeremy Guthrie's outing against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night quickly morphed from unlucky to unsuccessful.
Despite trailing by a run, Guthrie took a quality start into the bottom of the seventh, when Billy Butler crushed a three-run homer to give the Royals some breathing room and ultimately hand the Orioles a 6-2 defeat.
"There are lots of pitches I'd like to take back," said Guthrie, who picked up his major league-leading 15th loss. "That was obviously the biggest, the most damaging, the home run in the seventh inning. It was such a close game at that point. But there were many more mistakes than that. I'll try to get better and work on it."
Guthrie, considered one of the team's most valuable trade chips, was making his first start since the nonwaiver trade deadline passed Sunday without his being dealt. It was also his first start since allowing just one run in seven innings against New York on Friday for his first win at Yankee Stadium.
"I felt about the same as last game," Guthrie (5-15) said. "I just wasn't able to get the same results."
The Orioles (43-64) have lost six of their past eight and are 3-6 on the road trip that ends Thursday. If they lose the rubber match against the Royals (47-63), it will be the Orioles' 12th consecutive losing road series. They haven't won one since May 13-15 at Tampa Bay.
"[Thursday] is Game 3, and it's been a while," Orioles second baseman Robert Andino said. "We just got to go out there and play hard. We've got to go out there and forget about what happened today."
What happened was a pitchers' duel through six innings before Guthrie allowed a double and a single to lead off the seventh in a 3-2 game. He retired the next batter, Melky Cabrera, then Butler stepped to the plate.
Kansas City's slugging designated hitter had just one hit in eight previous at-bats against Guthrie, who missed with his first three pitches. He then tried to sneak a fastball past Butler, who smashed it 427 feet to deep center, the ball bouncing off the Kauffman Stadium ivy.
"I got the green light, and I was trying to do what I did -- just drive it," said Butler, who has hit six homers in his past eight games and added a sacrifice fly for four RBIs on Wednesday. "I got a pitch in a good spot to do it."
The swing guaranteed that Guthrie, who has been battling tough luck and little run support much of the season, would be tagged with another loss. He was charged with six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in seven innings.
"I just think early on, he wasn't real crisp," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Guthrie. "And then he picked it up in the third inning. Sometimes that can be the game. I can't fault him a whole lot tonight. The pitches he'd like to get back [are] not getting into a 3-0 count."
Through six, it looked like Guthrie would again be a hard-luck loser as he nearly matched pitches with Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar, who cruised through the Orioles' lineup after allowing two hits and a run in the first.
After Hochevar struck out the Orioles' first two hitters, Adam Jones doubled and scored on Vladimir Guerrero's single to left. The inning ended when Guerrero attempted to steal second and was thrown out.
Hochevar didn't allow another hit until one out in the eighth -- retiring 18 of 20 at one point.
"The story is we just couldn't mount anything offensively. It's been a challenge for us when Jeremy pitches at times," Showalter said. "You'd like to see us mount a little bit more again Hochevar."
The only other Oriole to reach base in those six innings was Felix Pie, who walked for just the seventh time this season in the third. Andino followed by grounding into a fielder's choice but dashed from first to third when Hochevar threw an errant pickoff attempt. Andino scored on a sacrifice fly J.J. Hardy.
The error was one of the few mistakes by Hochevar (8-8), who allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out a season-high seven batters.
Hochevar, whom the Orioles pounded in May for seven runs in a 9-2 win at Camden Yards, left in the eighth with one out and runners on second and third. After Matt Wieters singled, Pie hit a drive to right that nearly left the yard.
On umpires' review, Pie settled for a double, and Greg Holland was summoned to preserve Hochevar's lead. Holland plunked Andino but struck out Hardy and got Markakis to hit into an inning-ending groundout. He pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save.
"We had a good shot in the eighth inning: Pie with a big double, had bases loaded," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "We were just unable to get that hit."
The Royals broke a tie at 1 in the second on a two-run triple by Alcides Escobar. Guthrie stranded Escobar at third and didn't allow another run until the Butler homer.
He got into trouble in the fourth when he walked leadoff hitter Yamaico Navarro, then, with one out, Escobar hit a liner up the middle that tipped Guthrie's glove and ricocheted off the pitcher's head. Guthrie recovered and attempted to make the play at first, but Escobar beat the throw.
Showalter and assistant athletic trainer Brian Ebel came out to check on Guthrie, who declared himself fine. He then provided the lightest moment of the night, placing the baseball against Ebel's bald head to show where the ball had struck him.
After chuckling, Guthrie took the mound again and this time snagged a liner by Manny Pina and threw to first to double off Escobar, ending the inning.
"I was just more embarrassed with it. I never really saw the ball. I never really felt it hit me. I didn't think it hit me very hard," Guthrie said. "I think I was more embarrassed and wanted to get going and get off that mound just because I felt like I should have caught that ball."
Butler and the Royals got the last laugh. They nearly piled on in the bottom of the eighth, but Jo-Jo Reyes, making his Orioles' debut, bailed reliever Brad Bergesen out of a bases-loaded jam by retiring both batters he faced.
The Royals hope to keep it going Thursday when lefty Jeff Francis tries to extend the Orioles' road woes.
"We need a [road] series, we need a series win bad," Jones said. "We got to come out here and take it to Francis. Point blank."