KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Innings don't get much worse than the sixth was for the Orioles last night at Kauffman Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals rallied for a 7-3 win.
The Royals sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the inning. Not only that, but the condition of Ben McDonald's strained right groin again became an issue.
While making a tag on a flawed rundown play, McDonald felt a burning sensation in his groin and had to take two warm-up pitches before resuming. He faced three more batters, and didn't retire any of them.
McDonald said the injury didn't impair him.
"I got a little scare on that diving tackle, but it's fine," McDonald said. "I kind of stretched it a little, felt a little twinge or burn. It scared me more than anything, but it's fine. I was real pleased the way it felt, happy with the way it held up. I don't anticipate it being a problem from here on in."
The 2-1 lead the Orioles forged against David Cone (9-2, 2.60), the league's first nine-game winner, didn't hold up as well as the Royals came out of the sixth leading 6-2.
Cone pitched eight innings of five-hit ball, allowed two runs, walked two and struck out five.
McDonald's final pitching line read 5 2/3 innings, eight hits, six earned runs, five walks and five strikeouts.
When McDonald (8-4, 4.31) departed, the Orioles trailed 3-2, the bases were loaded and he had allowed two hits and two walks in the inning.
Still, he didn't agree with manager Johnny Oates' decision to lift him in favor of Mark Eichhorn, who walked in a run, and left-hander Tom Bolton, who yielded a two-run single.
"I was disappointed about being taken out," said McDonald, who has gone 2-4 with a 7.26 ERA in his past six starts. "I didn't agree with that. I felt I had a feel for the ballgame there. I came out and it didn't work out. That's the way it goes sometimes."
McDonald's groin injury first surfaced May 23 in Milwaukee, forced him out of a May 28 start in the third inning and forced him to miss his last scheduled start, interrupting a string of 80 starts.
McDonald aggravated the injury last night on a rundown play on which the ball went from first baseman Rafael Palmeiro to catcher Chris Hoiles to third baseman Leo Gomez to McDonald.
Where was the breakdown?
"[Hoiles should] run farther back to third, tag him out, one throw, runners on first and second," Oates said.
McDonald chased Bob Hamelin back up the line toward third and fell down while placing the lunging tag on Hamelin, leaving the Royals with runners on second and third.
The Orioles led 2-1 at the time and there two outs.
McDonald, who walked gingerly back to the mound and took two warm-up pitches, didn't retire any of the remaining three batters he faced.
He walked Greg Gagne to load the bases and lost the lead when Jose Lind hit a two-run single to right.
After McDonald walked Coleman to load the bases, Oates replaced him with Eichhorn, who walked Brian McRae, the only batter he faced, to force in the run that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead.
Bolton came on to face Wally Joyner, who hit a two-run single up the middle to expand the Royals' lead to 6-2.
Brent Mayne's run-scoring single in the seventh gave the Royals 7-2 lead. In the ninth, Cal Ripken greeted reliever Stan Belinda with his fifth home run.
For McDonald, the first three innings weren't the smoothest, but he managed to limit the Royals to one run, despite allowing eight base runners to reach by hit or walk.
Picking off Vince Coleman at second base with a runner on first, nobody out and Joyner at the plate didn't hurt.
McDonald, who had retired six hitters in a row going into the sixth, tested his injury earlier while covering home plate on a bang-bang play in the third.
McDonald's ball four to Felix Jose, which would have loaded the bases, bounced in the dirt and McRae tried to take advantage. He broke for home as Hoiles broke for the wild pitch. McDonald covered the plate in time to catch Hoiles' toss and tag out McRae, escaping the inning down 1-0.
Hoiles, hitting his eighth home run, gave McDonald a 2-1 lead in the fourth. After Gomez reached on a one-out walk, Hoiles homered to left.
Hoiles, batting .225, is one of four regulars batting .240 or lower, with Mike Devereaux (.208), Brady Anderson (.227) and Mark McLemore (.240). For the moment, Jack Voigt is a regular and is hitting .237.
If Hoiles hasn't been hot lately, he at least has been warming up. Hoiles has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games for a .297 clip.
Cone gave the Orioles more opportunity in the inning, but they didn't take advantage.
McLemore singled to right and advanced to third on Cone's wild pickoff attempt. Voigt failed to bring home the run, grounding out to second, and Anderson popped to third as the Orioles took a 2-1 lead out of the inning.
The Orioles also failed to take advantage of Cone in the third inning, when McLemore and Voigt led off with consecutive singles. Anderson popped out and Devereaux struck out before Palmeiro walked to load the bases. Harold Baines grounded out to second, ending the rally.
"What made him so tough tonight?" Ripken echoed a question about Cone. "What makes him so tough every night? He has a real good idea how to pitch. His fastball is hard and he has two or three different kinds of breaking balls with different arm angles. Some break more than others. He keeps you off balance and he's really difficult to get a read on."
McDonald should have a better read on the condition of his right groin this morning.
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Sid Fernandez (3-3, 4.16) vs. Royals' Bob Milacki (0-0, 2.77)