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Royals walk off with win over Orioles

By Monday, this won't be Juan Samuel's problem anymore. The Orioles interim manager won't have to agonize over gut-wrenching losses. He won't have to stew over abbreviated outings from starters and blown saves from closers.  

That will be Buck Showalter's problem.  

However, this four-game series against the Kansas City Royals, his final one as Orioles manager, still carries much meaning for the immensely proud Samuel and that was plenty evident Friday night after his team blew a game that it was one out away from winning.  

Brought on to preserve a one-run lead in the ninth inning, closer Alfredo Simon got two quick outs and then surrendered a walk, a single and a game-ending homer to Alex Gordon in the Orioles' 7-5 loss to the Royals before an announced 21,537 at Kauffman Stadium.  

"There's no excuse," said Samuel, visibly annoyed by the sudden turn of events in the bottom of the ninth inning, when the Orioles were one strike away from their first two-game winning streak since the All-Star break. Instead, the Royals rallied to break their five-game losing streak. "We have to win the games that we were supposed to win, and that was one of those."  

Simon, the converted starter who had blown only two of his first 17 save opportunities, appeared to be on his way to an easy save when he retired the Royals' No. 3 and 4 hitters, Billy Butler and Jose Guillen, on groundouts. After getting ahead of Rick Ankiel, Simon, who was clearly struggling with the rain, issued a full-count walk.  

Wilson Betemit then followed with a single past diving first baseman Luke Scott and Gordon buried Simon's 1-0 pitch, a letter-high fastball, into the right-field seats.  

"It's a lot of frustration," said Simon, who didn't make excuses but admitted that he struggled to grip the baseballs, which he said felt sticky. "They played all eight innings and they give me the last inning just to make three outs. But this happened in the game and I hope I do better next time."  

It was an especially bitter loss to the Orioles, who survived another short outing from a young starter, this one by Jake Arrieta, and battled back from a three-run deficit in the third inning to tie the game by the sixth. They then overcame a one-run deficit later by scoring two runs in the eighth inning.  

Third baseman Ty Wigginton, whose name figures to be discussed heavily before Saturday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, doubled home Nick Markakis to tie the game, and then scored on Betemit's error at third base to give the Orioles the 5-4 lead. Wigginton went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in the losing effort.  

"Every loss is tough, but at the same time, we did a good job of getting back in the game and getting the lead," Wigginton said. "It just looked like Gordon sold out on a heater and got it. He's got to throw a strike there. You don't want to fall behind 2-0. He just cheated and got a hold of it."

Gordon, a one-time top prospect who has battled injuries and inconsistency early in his career, figured prominently in allowing Arrieta to get through 4 1/3 innings having allowed just three runs.  

Arrieta gave up six hits and issued a career-high five walks and now has an 8.56 ERA in three outings since the All-Star break. He's also logged just 13 2/3 innings in his past three starts.  

"It just really comes down to a couple of pitches and if I execute, it's a different game," Arrieta said. "Like I said, pitching deep in games is something I have to do. I have to take some pressure off the guys in the pen and in time, it will be that way.  

"I think it's just a matter of being too fine for no reason. Everybody comes up to me and they're like, 'You got to throw your fastball more, you got a plus fastball and you got to challenge these guys with it.' At times, I get away from that for whatever reason. I just got to tell myself, 'I have a good fastball and I need to use it more.' I need to use it to get ahead." 

Arrieta did do a good job of controlling the damage after the Royals scored three runs on him in a 35-first pitch inning, which included a 13-pitch at-bat by leadoff man Chris Getz. Arrieta got out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out Gordon and retiring Yuniesky Betancourt on a comebacker.  

He then watched from the dugout as Jason Berken bailed him out of another jam in the sixth. Berken got Gordon to hit into a double-play with runners on the corners and one out.  

Four innings later and in the same situation except with two outs, Gordon delivered, sending the Orioles to another loss, one that annoyed their temporary manager more than most.  

"You get these games that close, you have to put them away," Samuel said.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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