Trip ends quietly

The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If the Orioles had been shut out in the first game of the series here, as they were in yesterday finale, a 4-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals, there might have been reason for concern.

Certainly, there would have been questions as to whether their scuffling offense was the primary factor in the two-hit, eight-inning masterpiece thrown by Royals right-hander Brian Bannister.

After winning three straight against Kansas City to give themselves a chance to even up a challenging 10-game road trip on its final day, the Orioles viewed yesterday's loss as fair payment for heading back in the right direction.

"Taking three out of four here is a nice positive," Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said. "We did a good job. The road trip was tough, but that's part of baseball. It's a long season, the boys have their heads high and we're playing good."

The Orioles (19-19) dropped five of their first six through the first two legs of the trek - against the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics - and seemingly had lost their early-season momentum. But by winning the first three in Kauffman Stadium, they salvaged a 4-6 record on their longest road trip of the season.

"We needed to regroup after losing three straight against Oakland, and a couple of them got away from us against Anaheim," Trembley said. "But we came in here and regrouped like I've seen us do before. We played some good baseball here."

After scoring just 18 runs in their first six games of the road trip, the Orioles produced 17 in their next three against the Royals - a club they had beaten in 12 straight dating to July 25, 2006.

"Losing that many games in a row to anybody, it's embarrassing," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "It's a difficult pill for me to swallow, and it was a difficult pill for the players to swallow."

The streak and the Orioles' offensive surge came to a screeching halt against Bannister (4-4), who allowed just two singles and two walks in eight scoreless innings in the first shutout of the Orioles this season. Mixing in an array of pitches, Bannister never allowed two runners in an inning. No Oriole reached second base in what was the club's season-low for hits.

"Cutters, sliders, four-seamers, two-seamers, he was just locating everything. He was down in the [strike] zone. He went in on us when he had to," said Orioles catcher Guillermo Quiroz, who had one of the Orioles' hits. "Guys like this on days like this, you've just got to tip your hat to him."

Said Bannister: "Actually, I felt like I was struggling a little bit. But I was able to struggle in the strike zone and keep the ball down when I needed to."

Orioles starter Brian Burres (3-4) lost his third straight decision, allowing four earned runs and nine hits in six innings. He allowed base runners in all but the first inning and had to wiggle out of several jams, including bases loaded and no outs in the second - in which the light-hitting Royals managed to score only once.

The Orioles play 12 of their next 18 at Camden Yards after a stretch of 17 of 20 on the road.

"It will be nice to get home," Millar said, "and get in front of our fans, and our music and our stuff and get going."

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