KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kevin Brown held a two-run lead when Orioles manager Phil Regan came out to relieve him in the sixth inning last night, and the pitcher's body language made it abundantly clear he wanted to stay in the game.
But he gave way to Arthur Rhodes, who gave up the lead and was the pitcher of record in the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals last night. The Orioles, who got all their runs on bases-empty homers, didn't lose any ground in the AL East standings, remaining six games behind. First-place Boston lost to Minnesota.
Brown had cruised through the early innings, retiring the Royals 1-2-3 in the first and second innings. It wasn't until Brown walked Brent Mayne, hitting .199, with two outs in the third, that he got into trouble. That base on balls cost him a run.
He regained his form, though, shutting out the Royals in the fourth and fifth innings. He would not last the sixth, however.
Vince Coleman hit an infield single that Cal Ripken smothered near second base. Then Tom Goodwin hit a one-hopper back to Brown, who turned to throw to second. But he hesitated for a moment, not sure if he was throwing to Ripken or second baseman Bret Barberie.
He threw to Barberie, as it turned out, but the moment's delay cost the Orioles a double play; Barberie's relay to first, a strained throw made off his back leg, was too late to get the speedy Goodwin.
Keith Lockhart singled to right, and Goodwin, bolting from first with the pitch on a run-and-hit, cruised into third.
To this point, Brown had allowed five hits and a run in 5 1/3 innings, and given his history of being a bulldog who regularly throws into the eighth inning, relief seemed an inning or two away.
Brown had thrown just 63 pitches, and he normally throws up to 120. Because he had thrown so well early, retiring the first eight batters he faced, he wasn't tired.
But unless you had been sitting in the left-field stands, you might not have known that, in the distant Orioles' bullpen, left-hander Rhodes had been warming up.
When Regan has something to say to his pitcher, he will half-jog to the mound, speak his piece and then leave. Regan stepped out of the dugout in the sixth inning. Slowly. A change was coming, with the left-hand hitting Wally Joyner coming to bat.
Brown, waiting on the mound, swore aloud, and looked down, holding the ball at his side, in his cupped hand. Regan reached the mound, hand outstretched. For just an instant, Brown held onto the ball, until Regan gave a little jerk of his hand, asking for the ball.
Brown yelled again going into the dugout, and disappeared down the runway. He came back and sat on the bench to watch how Rhodes fared the rest of the inning.
Not well. He bounced a pitch in the dirt to Joyner, and Goodwin scored and Lockhart advanced to second. Then Joyner struck out, and pinch hitter Gary Gaetti lined out to left, ending the inning. Brown waited to shake hands with Rhodes, before going into the clubhouse.
Brown couldn't have been happy, though, with what happened in the seventh.
Jon Nunnally grounded to Ripken to open the inning, but Royals shortstop Greg Gagne mashed a long homer to left, far enough that Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson took several steps back toward the wall and then just admired the flight of the ball.
David Howard grounded out, for the second out of the inning, and then Brent Mayne lined a single to left. Three of the four hitters had swung at the first pitch; obviously, somebody had informed the Royals that Rhodes likes to throw his fastball early in the count.
Rhodes fell behind Coleman by throwing a ball, then came back with a low fastball. Coleman absolutely bashed it, hitting it about as far as his Punch-and-Judy body would drive the ball. Coleman trotted slowly to first, giving him the opportunity to see the ball fly over the left field fence. The two-run homer, Coleman's third homer of the year, gave the Royals a 5-3 lead, and somewhere in Kauffman Stadium, Brown was probably feeling very unhappy.
The Orioles had built a 3-1 lead with power. Greg Zaun, who had driven in four runs on Friday night, followed that with a solo homer one out into the third inning. With two outs in the fourth, Harold Baines reached out and slammed a fastball, low and away, to left, over the opposite field wall, Baines' 12 homer of '95. Then Leo Gomez, who is beginning to heat up like he is wont to do, ripped a homer over the left field fence.
3' The lead wouldn't hold up, however.