BALTIMORE - The Orioles seemed listless Sunday, and the reasons could have been plentiful.
A late Saturday night game, followed by a day game? The thought of All-Star first baseman Chris Davis headed to the disabled list? A beleaguered bullpen in need of some rest?
Maybe all of the above.
Baltimore played shoddy defense and fell behind early against Kansas City, and when the Royals won 9-3 they took the three-game series and dropped the Orioles back to .500.
They've been hovering there for the last two weeks, all the while waiting for Manny Machado to return from his rehab assignment in the minors. But the offense sputters at home, the defense can't find any consistency, and Davis officially landed on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, a setback that could cost him several weeks.
For three hours Sunday afternoon, it was KC right-hander James Shields dominating the Orioles, while Miguel Gonzalez pitched well enough to win but fell victim to some miscues in the field.
Like center fielder Adam Jones, a Gold Glove winner last season, dropping a fly ball in the game's first at-bat that led to a run. Or a run-down gone awry in the fifth, when Alcides Escobar got caught trying to steal but Nick Markakis' throw sailed over Steve Lombardozzi's head on a throw toward second base.
Escobar scampered back to first and scored two batters later on Omar Infante's double.
"We gave them some things we don't normally give them," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Infante gave the Royals (12-12) six RBIs, matching a career high, and he smacked a two-run home run to left-center in KC's four-run seventh inning that sealed the win.
More than enough for Shields (3-2), who pitched seven innings and struck out six.
"He was dealing, throwing all the pitches for strikes, always low in the strike zone," said right fielder Nelson Cruz. "He had like two or three secondary pitches. ... Most of the time he's always on top of his game. Today wasn't any different."
The Orioles (12-12) weren't as fortunate.
Cruz put them on the board in the sixth inning with his seventh home run, a two-run shot that landed in the home team's bullpen. That cut Kansas City's lead to 4-2, but the Royals sent nine men to the plate in the seventh and reliever Evan Meek absorbed the blow.
Meek allowed four runs and five hits in less than an inning, with Infante's homer and Alex Gordon's two-run double providing the big damage.
Gonzalez (1-2) said he tried not to think about matching Shields inning for inning, but falling behind early did him in.
"Every time I try to go out there and do better," said Gonzalez, who matched his season high with six innings pitched. "And I try to stay out there as long as possible. It's coming along. It's coming along. I think it's all right."
Baltimore is seemingly facing a crossroad at this early stage of the season.
Losing Davis means a power outage in the lineup and some shuffling on defense to compensate for his absence. Markakis started at first base Sunday, the second consecutive game for the right fielder at first.
Most of Davis' offensive mates are struggling at the plate. Only Markakis and catcher Matt Wieters and sport averages of .300 or better as regulars.
Meanwhile, four relief pitchers have ERAs of 5.00 or higher, led by Josh Stinson's 7.15 and Meek's 6.75.
Not a good combination, just like facing Shields and giving him unearned runs proved Sunday.
But the season rolls on, Jones said.
"It doesn't matter. There are going to be injuries. That's why you have a 40-man roster. That's why you have guys in the minor leagues," he said. "It's a sport. You can walk in any day and anything can happen. It's not like regular life when you go into an office and your biggest risk is tripping over some stairs or something. You never know what could happen."