As Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez retraced the Royals' seven-run sixth inning in Monday night's 8-3 loss at Kauffman Stadium, one pitch stood out.
He didn't regret the 0-1 sinker that Mike Moustakas hit over the right-field fence for a two-run homer that tied the game. The one pitch he really wanted back was an 0-2 four-seam fastball to Omar Infante that caught too much of the plate.
Jimenez said he wanted to go up and in to Infante. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said catcher Matt Wieters called for a split-finger fastball. Either way, Jimenez missed his spot badly. Infante tripled into Kauffman Stadium's vast left-center field gap, then scored on a wild relay throw to third from second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
Just like that, a 3-3 game became a 6-3 game.
"It happened quickly," Schoop said. "They put some good at-bats together. They came through. They started a rally. They squared some balls up. There's nothing we could do."
All seven Kansas City runs in the sixth inning were scored with two outs. Jimenez was one pitch away from ending the inning right after Moustakas' homer but Salvador Perez kept the inning alive with a full-count infield single up the middle. Two batters later, after Alex Rios roped a double to left, Infante, a .218 hitter on the season who entered the night hitting .170 in the second half and .118 in August, killed the Orioles with one swing.
In scoring seven runs in the sixth, the Royals were 7-for-8.
"That's the tough thing about baseball, everything can change," Jimenez said. "We were one out away.
Up until then, Jimenez was pitching well. He had retired nine straight before Eric Hosmer's one-out double set the stage for Moustakas' homer two batters later.
Where's the out pitch? Are there better scouting reports on Jimenez? In his last start, Miguel Gonzalez – who will start Tuesday in Kansas City – suffered through similar struggles in two-strike counts.
"I've been struggling a little with my mechanics, but tonight I felt really good with it," said Jimenez, who has a 7.65 ERA in that span after having a 2.81 ERA in his 17 first-half starts. "It wasn't about mechanics or anything it was just, made a couple mistakes that cost the game."
"He's had some very good periods like you saw tonight where he's pitched real well and just hasn't been able to carry it over the long haul," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Jimenez. "Like most starting pitchers, it's about command of the fastball. He was doing real well with it and it got away from him."
Put that inning on the backburner for a moment. Then take into account that following Steve Clevenger's RBI double in the fourth, the Orioles didn't have a single baserunner for the rest of the game. That's 16 up and 16 down.
It was the seventh game in the last eight that the Orioles have scored three runs or fewer. You won't win many games with that kind of consistency.
And yes, the Royals have a great bullpen, and strong pitching overall. But Kris Medlen was making his first start of more than three innings since coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. And the Orioles didn't have to face Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis or Greg Holland in the final innings.
A dose of left-hander Franklin Morales (who entered the night with a 5.40 ERA against the Orioles) and Luke Hochevar (6.23) did the trick.
But the Orioles will be here for three more days, so they will have to go through Herrera, Davis and Holland eventually.
Tonight, left-hander Danny Duffy takes the mound for the Royals. He has a 1.46 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles. Last May 17, Duffy retired the first 20 Orioles batters he faced before finally allowing an Adam Jones single with two outs in the seventh in a 1-0 Kansas City win.