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Orioles' three-game winning streak ends with 9-2 loss to Royals

With a leadoff home run to mark his return from a few days on the bench with a sore hip, plus a handful of rangy plays in center field, Orioles rookie Cedric Mullins reclaimed his rightful place as not only their brightest star in the present but a piece to look ahead to with a modicum of hope.

The rest of the eventual 9-2 loss Friday night at the Kansas City Royals, who now at 43-91 are 3 1/2 games better than the 40-95 Orioles in the race to not have the league’s worst record, was largely the kind of baseball that got the visitors into the sad situation they find themselves.

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“That game would have been out of hand if he hadn’t made some of the plays that he made tonight,” manager Buck Showalter said of the rookie Mullins. “He was a real bright spot.”

Facing a rookie Rule 5 draft pick in Brad Keller (7-5), the Orioles’ bats were wholly overmatched, and even if they played a sound defensive game, the speedy young Royals kept them on their heels.

If former Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop looks strange in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform, just imagine how strange he must have felt when he wore it for the first time.

Starter Andrew Cashner (4-13) had to enter survival mode just as quickly as Mullins homered to give him a lead. Kansas City’s leadoff man, Whit Merrifield, doubled on Cashner’s second pitch, was on third base after Alex Gordon singled on his fourth and scored when Hunter Dozier grounded into a double play on Cashner’s eighth.

Cashner stranded one in the first, left the bases loaded in the second after falling behind 3-0 to Gordon but bouncing back to strike him out, and worked a clean third. But speedy center fielder Brian Goodwin walked to open the fourth and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Merrifield.

Dozier homered to open the fifth, and the Orioles pulled one back after Mullins’ double thanks to a sacrifice fly by Trey Mancini. Cam Gallagher then homered with one out in the sixth to chase Cashner.

“If you look at the body of work, the last home run is the one to really stick with him,” Showalter said. “He could have come out of that with three runs, and not being able to do the things he normally does.”

“That was probably some of the worst stuff I’ve carried in a game,” Cashner said. “My sinker was not there tonight. Off-speed pitches were not there. I didn’t really command anything for a strike, didn’t get ahead of guys.”

Yefry Ramírez allowed two runs before getting out of the inning, and Ryan Meisinger was responsible for a three-run eighth. The Orioles did nothing else to trouble Keller.

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He matched a career best with eight innings, walking Chris Davis twice and allowing singles to Adam Jones and Joey Rickard on top of Mullins’ two hits, but nothing more.

Mullins said all he did was go up with a plan for Keller, and got rewarded.

“It’s been a long season, and to come in and have the immediate success that I’m having is big, but I’m always playing for the win,” Mullins said.

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