Written by Mike Laws
From surge to swoon
Limp effort ensures series loss in KC
Orioles 1, Kansas City 7
Seriously, about the only moment in Thursday night’s road-trip-concluding finale out in Kansas City where you might’ve perked up and paid any attention at all — for the most part, this game was about as exciting as a field trip to the box factory — came in the top of the fifth, when the Orioles finally managed to smack a line drive (or two) the opposing position players couldn’t reel in.
Up till that point they’d had opportunities aplenty against Jeremy Guthrie, who you can add to the list of ex-O’s who now get their jollies torturing their former club. After tossing a one-two-three first, the right-hander found himself in trouble in the second following a leadoff walk of Adam Jones and one-out single surrendered to Matt Wieters, which advanced Jones to third. J.J. Hardy then ripped a frozen rope that appeared destined for left field, but which shortstop Alcides Escobar leapt up and to his right and snared on a backhand. Jones managed to return to third in time to avert an inning-ending 6-5 double play, but Guthrie got Henry Urrutia swinging on a 3-2 fastball to cap an extended at-bat, and the Birds went down without a run.
Thing was, they were already trailing, by then — an unusual circumstance indeed, given the fact that we were talking about a Miguel Gonzalez start, here. But a typical Gonzalez outing this was not. The man they call the Ice-Cold Killer had recorded a quick pair of outs to begin his night of work, it’s true, before running into two-down trouble in the first: Billy Butler hooked a double down the line to right; Salvador Perez singled up the middle, scoring Butler and taking second on the relay home; David Lough flared one just over Brian Roberts’s head, plating Perez. 2-0. And, after the Orioles had proven unable to chip into the deficit, in that disappointing second turn at the dish, the Royals would add a run (via another double, a bunt single, and a sacrifice fly) in their half.
And again, in the third, the visitors would run into some hard luck. Roberts started the inning off with a single into right. Nate McLouth flied out, but then Manny Machado tagged another Guthrie offering, shooting it toward the gap in right-center — just, unfortunately, not quite out of the reach of second baseman Chris Getz, fortuitously (for his team) swung around to double-play depth, who jumped and snagged it and flipped to first in time to record the twin-killing after all. Yeesh.
Which brings us, after a quiet third and fourth, back to that fifth frame, where at first it looked like nothing was gonna change: Wieters again singled, leading things off, but Hardy grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. But what’s this, now? Urrutia went down and golfed a 2-2 Guthrie offering on a topspin line out to right; Lough charged and dived, but couldn’t get there in time for yet another highlight-reel defensive play; and not only that, but the ball skipped on past and rolled all the way to the wall. Urrutia cruised into third standing. And when Roberts followed with a double into the gap in left-center, narrowly beating the relay, you had to think maybe the fortunes were turning …
But no. Because here, finally, with the score now 3-1, Royals, was the moment of highest drama: First-ball hitting, as he is wont to do, McLouth slapped an outer-half Guthrie fastball the opposite way, into left, dying fast. Alex Gordon sprinted over, dived, and … made the catch? I guess you could say that. The umpires did. Gordon, who’d clearly trapped the ball, did a nice job displaying it for them, as well as getting quickly back to his feet and jogging toward the home-side dugout and accepting high-fives and such. A livid Buck Showalter came out to argue, but no sale there. What should’ve made it 3-2 and kept the rally alive instead went for a poorly called third out, and the Birds were forced to settle for just the one run.
Of course, everything that transpired after that made it all moot anyway. Gordon, wouldn’t you know it, tripled in a run immediately, in the following half-inning. Eric Hosmer singled him in. Butler walked and Gonzalez managed to induce a double-play ball off the bat of Perez, but then Lough came through again, again delivering a two-out RBI single, this time to greet (rather rudely) Troy Patton. 6-1 …
While meanwhile the bats did next to nothing against Guthrie, in his sixth and final inning of work, and could only threaten against reliever Aaron Crow, in the seventh, before retiring quietly there, too. In the eighth they’d manage a two-out single, but nothing else, against hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera; in the ninth Louis Coleman finished it out in order. And I guess I could tell you about how Francisco Rodriguez coughed up a long home run to Butler, in his Oriole debut, or how Brian Matusz looked fine in his inning of work … but I’m boring myself even trying to remember enough to describe it. Home tomorrow to the Sox. Here’s hoping for some better luck then.
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