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Everything keeps coming up Royal blue

Peter Schmuck: It's not over for the Orioles. Wait, who are we trying to kid?

Reality is a cruel mistress. It is angry and blunt. It is the mortal enemy of illusion.

Orioles fans were re-introduced to it Tuesday night, when the Orioles lost Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, 2-1, and essentially served notice that the only orange-and-black dream left is the impossible one.

OK, the almost impossible one if you want to get technical about it, since it is not totally outside the realm of possibility that they could suddenly take flight today and win the last two games at Kauffman Stadium, then sweep games 6 and 7 at Camden Yards to punch their ticket to the World Series.

It's just that nothing like that ever has happened in the era of the best-of-seven League Championship Series and there is nothing to indicate that the Orioles still have enough left of what it takes to make that kind of improbable history.

The Kansas City Royals had to sneak into the postseason through the slimmest of cracks as a wild card, but when they earned a new lease on life with their terrific comeback in that one-game playoff against the Oakland Athletics, something magical this way came.

The baseball began bouncing in their direction in Game 1 of the Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels and the wind they call momentum never has shifted.

The Orioles know all about that. They've been beating the odds all year and they had the same kind of mojo rising in their three-game division series sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

Remember that home run by Nelson Cruz that landed right at the base of the foul pole at Comerica Park? Remember the string of close calls and challenges that always seemed to go against Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who quickly reached the point where he had to be convinced that Buck Showalter had come into possession of compromising photographs of the baseball gods.

Well, they picked a bad time to balance the celestial books, at least from Baltimore's perspective. The Orioles and their fans should have known something was up when Alex Gordon shattered his bat with the bases loaded in Game 1 and all three of those base runners touched home plate before the ball was safely in hand again.

Game 3 started with more promise — and the Orioles' first lead of the series — but a couple more soft hits set up the Royals' tying run in the fourth inning and Billy Butler broke that tie with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Wei-Yin Chen pitched well, but he couldn't keep the heart of the Kansas City lineup at bay and rookie Kevin Gausman couldn't bail him out. The Royals bullpen, as usual did the rest.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but that sixth inning began with Royals fans singing along to Journey's “Don't Stop Believin'” and, really, why would they?

The Royals have spent the first three games of the ALCS finding every uncoverable inch of the infield and poking baseballs there with amazing regularity. It's what they do, but if they had done it this well during the regular season, they wouldn't have had to sweat out the AL Central race and win a one-game wild-card playoff to get into the real postseason mix.

The Orioles, meanwhile, couldn't seem to find that one elusive square foot of the outfield that some speedy Royal couldn't get to on a full run or with an Olympic-caliber swan dive. Don't want to go all Eastern philosophy on you, but those balls fall in when your karma is right.

Take nothing away from the Royals. They battled right to the end of the regular season and have not lost a game since. Monday night's win was their seventh straight postseason victory and eighth straight win if you count the final game of the regular season. They swept the winningest team in baseball — the Angels — in the ALDS, so it's not as if they were waiting in a dark alley and the Orioles just happened by.

They are playing with so much confidence right now that they even got away with a little trash-talking. Jarrod Dyson basically counted the Orioles out of the series after Game 2 in Baltimore, but even the bulletin board material in the Orioles clubhouse took a funny bounce.

Surely, no Orioles fan who watched the Orioles overcome every obstacle during the regular season and sprint right past three former Cy Young Award winners in the division series could have imagined that the ALCS would go so sour so fast.

It's not over yet, but it sure feels that way.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, “The Schmuck Stops Here,” at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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