It was shaping up as another satisfying night for the home team at Camden Yards. The Orioles had turned a three-run deficit into a four-run lead. Aubrey Huff continued his torrid pace by hitting homers in consecutive innings. The Orioles hit back-to-back triples for the first time in almost eight years, and Garrett Olson appeared to have settled down from his rocky start.
But in one unsightly inning last night, everything was lost - a series victory over the Kansas City Royals, a potential three-game winning streak and a serviceable outing by Olson.
Taking advantage of some bad pitching and one key instance of poor fielding, the Royals scored seven runs in the sixth inning off three Orioles pitchers, the difference in a 10-7 victory before an announced 16,782 at Camden Yards.
"We had that game in hand, and ... it fell apart," said first baseman Kevin Millar, whose error denied Olson an important out in the decisive inning. "Obviously, the error at first base, and we couldn't stop the bleeding - five, six, seven hits after that. It's a tough loss."
The Royals' sixth-inning outburst earned them a split in the four-game series and left the Orioles (43-41), who had been 27-0 when scoring six runs or more, with plenty to lament.
For Olson, it was a four-pitch leadoff walk to Jose Guillen in the sixth that opened the floodgates and continued his struggles to get deeper in games. For the normally sure-handed Millar, it was his glance at the runner that appeared to result in his botching a routine grounder that should have been the second out of the inning.
In his second relief appearance, Adam Loewen surrendered hits to all three Royals he faced, and Chad Bradford came in and allowed four more runs on two singles and a sacrifice fly. It all added up to a four-run lead turning into a three-run deficit in no time at all.
"It was a weird inning," Loewen said. "It kind of happened really fast."
Back-to-back triples by Adam Jones and Brandon Fahey gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead in the fourth. When Huff blasted his second homer of the game off Kyle Davies in the fifth, this one a two-run shot that also landed on the flag court, the Orioles' advantage was 7-3.
Olson had given up solo homers in the second and third innings before settling down. However, in the sixth, he missed with four straight pitches to Guillen and then allowed a double to Billy Butler on an 0-2 pitch, putting runners on second and third.
"The momentum definitely changed with the walk, the double," Olson said. "Unfortunately, things just started unraveling a little bit for us."
Olson struck out Miguel Olivo for the first out and then Mark Teahen reached and a run scored on Millar's error. Olson's pitch count was at 89, but sensing things slipping away, manager Dave Trembley removed him from the game for Loewen. It was the ninth time in 13 outings Olson has failed to go six innings.
"I've seen it with [Radhames] Liz as well," Trembley said. "They get to the fifth and we have a lead and then they get to the sixth and we have a lead and then I think they get a little tentative. I would think they've got to be a little bit more aggressive and get through that."
Loewen gave up three straight singles, the last to David DeJesus cutting the Orioles' lead to 7-6. Bradford came in and surrendered a game-tying single to Mark Grudzielanek, his fourth hit of the night, and then a go-ahead sacrifice fly to Alex Gordon. Guillen, the 10th batter to hit in the inning, then bounced a two-run single up the middle. The seven runs were the most a team has scored against the Orioles in an inning all season.
"When you get ahead like we did and lose, it's not something that was real comfortable for any of us," Trembley said.