Written by Mike Laws
This one stings
Hosmer spoils Chen’s gem; KC walks off
Orioles 3, Kansas City 4
I guess now we know how all those other teams felt when Chris Davis basically beat them singlehandedly earlier this year. Heck, even Eric Hosmer’s approach reminds me of Chris’s, what with the big softball-style uppercut and all (though Hosmer’s actual swing is like 200% more violent).
Speaking of which, the fact that the guy looks straight-up evil (arch eyebrows, dark features, lipless rodential grin) likely won’t do Wei-Yin Chen any favors as far as the inevitable nightmares go. The Oriole southpaw’s already bound to see Hosmer’s two home runs from Wednesday night’s tilt — one greeting the starter, one sending him on his way — in his dreams; doesn’t help that the guy who hit them appears to bear the mark of the beast.
Because, other than Hosmer’s solo shot in the first and his eventual tying two-run blast with one away in the eighth, Chen was just about as good as we’ve ever seen him (which is saying quite a lot). The single he coughed up to Billy Butler directly subsequent to Hosmer’s first-inning rocket represented the last Kansas City baserunner he’d permit aboard until there was one away in the fifth, a span of twelve consecutive batsmen retired. The two-out double Chen yielded to Butler in the sixth (when the lefty was still working with the narrowest of cushions) was the first time all night the home team had gotten a man into scoring position (not counting the home run, obviously); Chen stranded him right there at second. The seventh was one of those funny (not funny ha-ha, funny weird) frames where, following a leadoff base-knock from Miguel Tejada, Chen induced three separate could’ve-been groundball double plays: the first from David Lough, who hit it just a touch too slowly to short, and runs too well; the second from Alcides Escobar, which Manny Machado had kick off the edging of the infield grass and eat him up for a rare error; and the final from Chris Getz, on whose hopper J.J. Hardy and Brian Roberts did link up for the twin-killing. So when Chen had finally gotten that friendly help, and had come back out now staked to a two-run lead, and rung up Elliot Johnson with a fastball dotted on the outside corner to begin the Royal eighth, you had to be feeling pretty good.
Ah, but then Lorenzo Cain punched a single over first, and Hosmer worked the count to 2-1, and we all know what happened next. Tie ballgame …
Of course, Hosmer’s twin blasts weren’t the only way in which this game comprised some of that fearful symmetry. Kansas City starter Ervin Santana, too, enjoyed a brilliant outing, matching or even besting Chen in just about every category — both surrendered three runs on seven hits while striking out three — except that Santana went eight full, and needed nine fewer deliveries than Chen in his seven and one-third. Also there was the fact that Santana actually should’ve only yielded the one run: Back in the fourth, with one away, Adam Jones inside-outed a chopper down toward Hosmer at first, on which either Hosmer’s footwork was not up to snuff or he simply didn’t have time to reset himself, and tried to swipe the short-hop on his backhand, which didn’t work, the ball caroming off the heel of the mitt and winding down the line in short right. Santana fanned Davis, but then Matt Wieters jumped on a grooved initial offering, torching the Royal hurler for a two-run shot out of Kauffman Stadium to right-center. Just like that, the O’s had the lead, 2-1.
It’d stay that way for some time, until that fateful eighth, which Roberts and Nate McLouth opened with consecutive singles. Machado bunted them over. Jones tugged a grounder deep into the 5/6 hole, not quite far enough to Escobar’s right to elude his reach, but at least sufficient to stay out of an inning-ending double play. The RBI groundout made it 3-1. And again, you had to like the Birds’ chances, until what happened in the bottom half happened.
Still, Darren O’Day came out of the ’pen and held the Royals in check for the final two-thirds of that frame — and was matched in that effort by refitted ex-starter Luke Hochevar, against whom Henry Urrutia slapped one of his two-hand backhands between third and short and into left, but no one else did much of anything. 3-3, entering the bottom of the ninth. Will we see Jim Johnson, Brian Matusz, newcomer K-Rod? We won’t. We’ll stick with O’Day, which at the time seemed like a fine plan. But the side-armer, sadly, could record only one additional out, on a liner right at Machado from Tejada, before Lough deposited a single into left and, on the first pitch of the following at-bat, Escobar crunched a middle-in fastball, nearly winning it outright on a walk-off home run, but instead winning it on an extra-base hit off the top of the wall in left, out of the reach of McLouth’s valiant leap, and with Lough (remember I said he was fast?) zooming around to beat the Jones-Hardy-Wieters relay and slide in with the game-winning run. O’s lose, 4-3. Sigh.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board