Kansas City, Mo. — Rookie right-hander David Hess’ ascendant second half of the season was halted Sunday in a sloppy 9-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals that resulted in a series sweep of the Orioles (40-97) at the hands of a team that opened a 5 1/2-game lead between the league-worst O’s and their hosts, the next-worst team.
A solo home run by Jonathan Villar gave the Orioles a first-inning advantage, but Hess was hit around while throwing the ball over the plate and didn’t help his cause throwing to bases either, sentencing the Orioles to their 11th sweep in 22 road series on a forgettable day in a year full of them.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” Chris Davis said. “I think that was probably the biggest thing that stuck out to me, just careless mistakes, things that we’ve really talked about lately that we need to kind of hunker down on. That’s when things start to spiral down, when you start making those mistakes and give the other team the momentum and a chance to score a bunch of runs, it makes it tough on your team.”
Said manager Buck Showalter: “As disappointing as some of the pitching and the defense, we scratched one run off a home run, and that’s about it.”
Kansas City broke through with a three-hit second inning, with Alcides Escobar singling to score Rosell Herrera with two outs to tie the game. Whit Merrifield singled to open the next inning and went from first to third on a single by Alex Gordon, then scored when Hess’ pickoff attempt to first base skipped past Trey Mancini for the first of three errors the Orioles would commit in the inning.
Jorge Bonifacio doubled to score Gordon and make it 3-1, and with Bonifacio on second, Hess tried another pickoff but had the on-target throw hit off Villar’s glove and go into center field. Bonifacio took third, and when Breyvic Valera’s throw bounced off third baseman Jace Peterson, he scored easily.
Kansas City tacked on a run via a single by Merrifield in the fourth inning, which was Hess’ last. The 25-year-old had pitched well since rejoining the Orioles’ rotation in early August after Kevin Gausman was traded, posting three straight quality starts and a 3.64 ERA in five starts last month to bring his ERA to 5.08. But he lived too often over the plate Sunday, and an aggressive Royals team made him pay.
“I think they came in with a specific approach,” Hess said. “You can tell that they did their homework, and knew that I was going to fill up the zone, so they weren’t trying to do too much with what I was giving them. They hit the mistake balls and made some good adjustments on some pretty good pitches here and there. They just executed their game plan, and I left the ball up a little too much today. They made the most of it.”
Said Showalter: “He gave up some hard-hit balls in the first inning and got out of it, but you know, when he’s good, he commands the baseball. When he’s not, you can go back through, which we’ll do, and he’s trying to go down and a way and the ball is center-cut. Good hitters make you pay for that. David knows that. It’s a couple steps forward, and you get a step or two back. It’s very frustrating, I’m sure, for him.”
Even before the Royals’ four-run eighth off Mike Wright Jr., they already had all the offense they needed. Jorge López, acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for Mike Moustakas and put into the Royals rotation, struck out seven of the first 11 batters he faced en route to his best career start — a run on five hits and his first win of the season.
Joey Rickard and Davis each had a two hits in the loss.