KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An Orioles team whose early-season success has been dictated by its ability to win close games was beaten by the Kansas City Royals by just one run in each of the past three days. The margin of defeat has been small, but after arriving in the Midwest with the best record in the American League, the Orioles boarded a plane for Detroit on Sunday night trying to find a way to end their season-high four-game losing streak.
The Orioles were swept out of Kansas City with their ugly 9-8 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Orioles have lost 10 of their past 12 games in Kansas City dating to May 2014. This marked the first time the Orioles were swept in a three-game series in Kansas City since April 11-13, 2000.
"You run into stretches through a 162-game season, that this type of stuff happens," catcher Caleb Joseph said. "You don't want it to happen very long. We've had a chance in every game. Today was a testament to how our offense came back and never really let us get out of touch. Couple of the previous games it was a nice job of our pitchers holding it there and giving us a shot to make a run at them. It's really nobody's fault. Collectively, we probably need to get more aggressive offensively in the early innings. Give our pitchers more of a cushion. When we do that we need our pitchers to hold it down."
Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman was coming off his best start of the season -- a seven-inning, two-run outing against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night -- but lasted just 3 1/3 innings Sunday, his shortest nonejection start of the season, giving back the 5-0 lead the Orioles had staked to him in the top half of the inning. The most damaging blow was third baseman Mike Moustakas' game-tying three-run homer into the Orioles bullpen.
After Chris Davis homered for his second straight game, putting the Orioles up 1-0 with a drive off starter Chris Young, the Orioles scored four runs in the top of the fourth on Ryan Flaherty's two-run double and Joseph's two-run homer, both with two outs.
The Orioles battled back within one run twice in the late innings, and they had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run on second with one out in the ninth against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera after Joseph's RBI double made it 9-8, but Herrera struck out Seth Smith and induced a game-ending flyout to left from Jonathan Schoop.
"I think it's just a combination of eliminating mistakes," Davis said. "We've been swinging the bat well and I felt like we've been coming up with some timely hits, but we've got to start eliminating some of the mistakes and getting ourselves in a hole early on. Obviously, Gaus has been a little bit sharper, a little bit crisper other times out. I think his track record speaks for itself. We know he's going to bounce back, and I like what I see from the offense, swinging the bats well, really today and putting some runs on the board is always big for a pitching staff that's kind of been grinding it lately."
Machado error costly
Reliever Richard Bleier put the first two hitters he faced in the sixth on base -- hitting Alex Gordon with a pitch and allowing a single to Drew Butera -- but the big damage that inning was self-inflicted, on third baseman Manny Machado's errant throw after fielding Alcides Escobar's sacrifice bunt.
Escobar was simply trying to move the two runners over when he dropped a bunt down the third base line. Machado scooped the ball but threw to second where there wasn't a fielder within 50 feet of the bag. The ball sailed into center field, enabling Gordon to score the go-ahead run and placing two runners in scoring position.
On the play, shortstop Flaherty covered the lead base runner heading to third and second baseman Schoop covered first with Davis charging the play, leaving second base unaccounted for.
"Just a miscommunication," Showalter said. "Trying to make a play and just didn't execute it. … I'm not going to get into that. We just had a miscommunication and just didn't execute what we were supposed to do."
Moustakas gave the Royals a 7-5 lead with an RBI groundout that inning.
Catchers getting offensive
Joseph's homer was the third in two days by an Orioles catcher. Francisco Pena had his first multi-homer game in Saturday night's loss.
Orioles catchers Joseph, Pena and Welington Castillo, who is expected to come off the DL on Tuesday, are hitting a collective .327.
Over his past five games, Joseph is 11-for-21 with five extra-base hits and six RBIs.
Castillo, who is scheduled to return from the disabled list before Tuesday night's series opener in Detroit, was 2-for-7 with two strikeouts and one walk in three minor league rehab games for Double-A Bowie. Castillo served DH for both games of a doubleheader on Saturday and caught seven innings Sunday.
The Orioles bullpen had to account for 10 1/3 innings over the three-game series, including 4 2/3 innings Sunday.
Four relievers combined to allow four runs -- three earned -- Sunday.
After the Orioles cut the Kansas City lead to 8-7 in the seventh, right-hander Mychal Givens allowed a homer to Butera to open the bottom of the seventh. On a 1-2 count, Givens left a slider over the plate that Butera hit over the left-field fence.