KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo repeated the old baseball adage before last night's game. "A post-game speech is only as good as your starting pitcher the following day." Perlozzo said with a wry smile.
If Perlozzo hadn't been so overcome with frustration Tuesday night, if he hadn't felt his team needed a tongue-lashing in the worst way, he may have waited to deliver a stern lecture the night before Erik Bedard pitched, rather than Adam Loewen, whose re sume lacked a major league win.
But a day after their effort and focus was questioned by their manager, the Orioles played well enough to secure a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals before 11,006 last night at Kauffman Stadium. Loewen got his first career win with five solid innings and Jeff Conine had four hits, including a bases-empty sixth inning homer, which turned into the Orioles' winning run.
Closer Chris Ray got the final four outs for his 25th save, and the Orioles (46-56) will have a chance to win the series and go 3-3 on the road trip with a victory tonight.
Loewen again couldn't go six complete innings - he's yet to do it in his seven major league starts - but he did leave with the Orioles nursing a 4-0 lead. Todd Williams' inherited Loewen's two-on and no-out jam, and got Angel Berroa to hit into a double play before allowing Shane Costa's RBI single that put Kansas City on the board.
That gave Loewen a line of one run, seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts in five innings.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless seventh and was removed in the ninth with men on first and third and two outs. Ray gave up at two-run double to Shane Costa but retired pinch hitter Joey Gathright on a comebacker to end the eighth with the Orioles holding a tenuous 4-3 lead.
He gave up a one-out walk to Esteban German in the ninth, before retiring Matt Stairs on a liner to left to end the game.Be fore the game, Perlozzo was far more upbeat than he was a night earlier when he felt the need to admonish his team following a 7-5 loss that featured three errors, a blown four -run lead and 13 runners left on base.
Late Tuesday, Perlozzo's voice could be heard by reporters who were standing several yards outside the closed doors of the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium. The Orioles manager said that the losing was not what prompted the outburst, rather an overall malaise that he felt surrounded his team. Perlozzo also felt that his team got far too complacent and didn't show the needed urgency to put away the lowly Royals.
"It's not a matter of winning and losing the next day." Perlozzo said before last night's game. "When I have a conversation like I had with the ballclub, 99 out of 100 times, it's going to be [because of] the manner in which we go about our business. If we go about our business right and we get beat, I've never had a complaint. As long as we come out and play hard and do the best we can, that's all I can ask for. We've been very good about that most of the year, but there's only been a couple of times where things have wavered."
Perlozzo obviously viewed Tuesday night as one of those times. Several Orioles, including Melvin Mora and Kevin Millar, said that they supported the manager's message. Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, viewed as the leader of the team, didn't say whether he was for or against it, but he said that he didn't feel the loss was because of a lack of effort.
"We're not joking around here." said Tejada. "We want to win. Games like that are going to happen. People here are trying to win some games. Sometimes you have to give credit to the other team. Sometimes you are going to feel tired and you are going to lose."
The Orioles again had several opportunities to put a comfortable distances between themselves and the Royals last night. They stranded two runners in the first inning against Kansas City starter Runelvys Hernandez, who flip-flopped spots in the Royals' rotation with tonight's starter, Jimmy Gobble.
In the second, they strung together three straight hits, the last an RBI single by rookie outfielder Nick Markakis, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead. But with men on first and third and still no outs, poor base running cost the Orioles a chance to score another run. Conine hesitated coming home on Chris Gomez's ground ball and wound up getting tagged out in a rundown for the second out.
Gomez did give the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a two- run single down the third-base line, scoring both Conine and Markakis.
Conine gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead with a bases-empty homer to lead off the sixth off Hernandez, who was pulled after Conine's eighth homer of the season.