KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Orioles have experienced great success this season when taking a tied game into the late innings, mostly because their bullpen has been able to buy enough time until the offense can scrape across a run.
But with Buck Showalter's bullpen at half strength Friday night – the manager said that two relievers were unavailable and he would only use another in a save situation – the Orioles dropped a 3-2 decision to the Kansas City Royals in their series opener at Kauffman Stadium. It was just the Orioles' third loss in 11 one-run games this season.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno (0-1) allowed the game-winning run on Eric Hosmer's RBI double into the right-center-field gap in the eighth, scoring Lorenzo Cain.
The previous inning, right-hander Mychal Givens escaped a two-on, two-out jam. But neither Darren O'Day, Brad Brach nor Donnie Hart warmed up in the Orioles bullpen.
"We were thin, trying to back off some guys and get their legs back under them," Showalter said.
Showalter turned to Nuno in the eighth with left-handers Mike Moustakas and Hosmer among those due up. But Nuno, who entered the night with a 6.55 ERA and having pitched mainly in long relief, allowed a one-out single to Cain before Hosmer lined a ball into the gap.
Center fielder Adam Jones made a lunging attempt, but couldn't come up with the ball and it rolled to the wall, allowing Cain to score easily.
Nuno let four of the six batters he faced reach base, including one intentional walk, and was saved from further damage when left fielder Joey Rickard threw out Hosmer at home on Salvador Perez's single.
"We've done that many times," Showalter said of being without some key late-inning relievers. "That's how we've been able to keep our guys healthy. We'll continue to do that. It's a challenge. It's something we'll make some adjustments in as we go forward. We pitched well. That wasn't what beat us tonight. We didn't score enough runs. We pitched well enough to win that game. Let's keep the focus on that. Our whole pitching staff's been doing a pretty good job for us. That's one of the reasons we are where we are."
The Orioles outhit the Royals 9-7 and seven of the team's nine starters had hits. But the Orioles offense could muster only two runs on the night against starter Danny Duffy (seven innings, eight hits), Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera. Soria and Herrera pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively.
The Orioles had multiple opportunities to break through against the Royals down to the final out.
With two outs in the ninth, catcher Caleb Joseph hit a sinking liner that got past a diving Jorge Soler in right field and rolled to the fence for a triple. But pinch hitter Seth Smith popped up to end the game.
They also had an opportunity to score with three consecutive singles with two outs in the third inning, but Mark Trumbo was thrown out at home by Alex Gordon on Trey Mancini's single to left to end the frame.
"The overall performances of our starters when they haven't had their best stuff and they gave us a chance to win, I think we're doing well this year," Joseph said. "It's just too bad we couldn't push one across tonight."
Bundy with another quality start
Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy posted his eighth consecutive quality start to open the season, holding the Royals to two runs over six innings in a no-decision.
Bundy's eight quality starts to open the season are the second most in club history, trailing only Hoyt Wilhelm's 10 straight to open the 1959 season.
One pitch – a knee-high 0-1 fastball that Royals designated hitter Brandon Moss sent into the stadium's fountains in right-center field – likely cost Bundy his sixth win of the season.
Bundy allowed just four hits on the night, including back-to-back doubles in the first inning by Moustakas and Cain that led to the first run of the game. Bundy retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced before yielding Moss' homer.
Using mainly a fastball-changeup mix, Bundy tied his season high with eight strikeouts. He used his changeup to get ahead in the count – he induced eight of his 14 swinging strikes with the pitch, including three third strikes.
"Yeah and I was actually throwing it to righties more today, too," Bundy said. "I was happy with it. That is really all I can say about the changeup. Me and Caleb, we had a good game plan even though we didn't have a curveball. We executed it."
Joseph in the middle
Joseph was 3-for-3 and had his first career game with three extra-base hits.
Joseph drove in the team's first run with an RBI double off the left-center-field fence that scored J.J. Hardy from third with one out in the second. He then opened the seventh inning with another double, moved to third on Craig Gentry's sacrifice bunt and scored on Duffy's wild pitch. Joseph added a triple in the ninth, but was stranded there to end the game.
"He's been solid," Showalter said. "He's in a good place offensively right now. He continues to dial up what we need, and that's been impressive. He's always been a real good caller of the game, a good catcher. He's had a track record of hitting. Last year, we thought was a break from the norm. This year, he's gotten back what to what he's capable of."
Joseph is 9-for-16 with three RBIs over his past four games, raising his batting average from .174 to .274.
"I was using [Welington Castillo's] bat, so I have to call him and give him all the credit," Joseph said. "You try to do what you can to help the team out. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't, but I think the main quality I want to bring every night is defense and I wasn't able to keep it at two [runs] and that's where I'll lose a little sleep tonight. But we'll get back at it tomorrow and see what we can do."
Joseph also made a sweep tag on Rickard's throw home to nab Hosmer in the eighth.