BALTIMORE - Orioles call-ups in August and September are usually associated with bad baseball at Camden Yards, but Thursday's game against Kansas City had altogether different circumstances.
Baltimore, in the thick of a playoff race, promoted touted prospect Manny Machado and started him at third base. The Orioles were riding a five-game winning streak and gaining momentum by keeping pace in the AL East and the wild-card chase.
The good vibes were quieted early, however, as the Royals pounced on starter Wei-Yin Chen and beat the Orioles 8-2 before an announced attendance of 21,226.
Machado's debut was positive, the 20-year-old, batting in the No. 9 slot, tripled in the fifth inning for his first big-league hit and finished 2 for 4 in front of a receptive home crowd.
"The fans love me here and I really appreciate what they did," said Machado, who made a putout at third and assisted on two others. "And I'm looking forward to more games."
Other than that, things didn't go too well for the Orioles, who were trying to win six in a row for the first time this season.
Kansas City (48-63) blasted Chen and collected 13 hits to win its third straight and give starter Will Smith a victory in his first career start against the Orioles (60-52).
Billy Butler fell a single short of the cycle - KC hasn't had one since 1990 - but continued his dominance against Baltimore pitching. Butler went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBIs, and he's batting .458 with three homers and five RBIs against the Birds this season. The Royals' All-Star is a .337 lifetime hitter against Baltimore (eight homers, 32 RBIs).
"Butler's one of the top five right-handed hitters in baseball. This guy is solid," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "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."
Chen (10-7) was off from the start. Alex Gordon led off the game with a home run to right field, and three batters later Butler slammed a three-run shot to left-center for his 23rd homer of the season.
The Royals got to Chen again in the third, scoring twice on RBI doubles from Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur.
Moustakas added an RBI single in the fifth, after Butler tripled to right with one out, and Chen was through. He allowed seven runs, a career high, and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings with five strikeouts. Chen matched his allowed run total in his past five starts with Thursday's performance.
In fact, the first out Chen recorded didn't even go as planned - after Butler's blast, KC catcher Salvador Perez sent a rocket up the middle and off Chen's left leg before second baseman Robert Andino corralled it and fired to first.
"Today was just not my day," Chen said through his interpreter. "I didn't have really good command today. My fastball, I feel like, was really straight today. There was no life on that."
Smith improved to 3-4 and struck out five batters in seven innings, giving up runs in the fifth and sixth on a sacrifice fly from Nick Markakis that scored Machado, and a Matt Wieters solo homer in the sixth.
Wieters went 2 for 3 and stayed hot on this homestand - he's 7 for 18 with three doubles, two home runs, and seven RBIs in the last four games.
Machado added an infield single in the seventh and Showalter said he was pleased with how the rookie handled himself in his big-league debut.
Even if Chen and the Orioles failed to post a victory.
"He got ambushed early and fought his way through some innings," Showalter said of his left-handed starter. "But he's human. He's performed at a very high level for us and I think it's more them than it was him.
"I know his competitive nature and he doesn't like getting hit around. I'm not saying it's good for him because he doesn't assume anything and we don't assume how hard it is to do what he's been doing for us, and he'll get back on the horse again."