The Orioles and Royals engaged in serious pitching duel tonight, with the Royals scoring just one run in the first inning and the Orioles being no-hit until the seventh inning. Both Bud Norris and Danny Duffy were on their games tonight, and despite a ninth-inning rally attempt by the Orioles, the Royals prevailed to take their first game of the series.
The first inning of the game was the roughest for Bud Norris. Leadoff hitter Nori Aoki reached on an infield single, and with one out Eric Hosmer hit a fly ball to deep left field. As we all know, every fly ball to left field is an adventure for Nelson Cruz. The ball sent Cruz back to the warning track and as he made the catch he didn't turn very quickly to get the ball back into the infield. Aoki for some reason was flying around the bases and was almost to third when the ball was caught. Once Nelson realized he fired the ball back to Hardy, who rushed a throw to first base that got away from Chris Davis, so Aoki was safe. He then stole second base and came in to score on a single back up the middle.
After that, it was all pitching. The O's hitters just could not solve lefty Danny Duffy. There were some moments where it looked like they might get a hit, such as a ground out to SS Alcides Escobar that he ranged over to the middle of the field, and a nice opposite field line drive by Nick Markakis that Alex Gordon made a hell of a play on to catch with a dive. And there were a few frustrating moments, like Manny Machado hacking at a 3-0 pitch instead of taking to try and get on base in a one-run game. But for the most part, Duffy just looked really good.
It wasn't until there were two outs in the seventh inning that the Orioles had a single base runner, when Adam Jones hit a ground ball back up the middle for a single. After Nelson Cruz singled to lead off the eighth inning with a line drive single to left field, Royals skipper Ned Yost pulled Duffy from the game. Altogether just a fine effort by him, and in my finest Dave Trembley impression I have to tip my hat to the kid.
Of course, Duffy wasn't the only good pitcher at Kauffman Stadium today. After the first inning shenanigans, he walked the first batter in the second inning, but then stepped up his game. He got outs on 11 of the next 12 batters, with the only Royal to reach base doing so on an error by Manny Machado. He put two runners on in the fifth inning thanks to a single and a HBP, but then cruised through the final few innings before being pulled with one out in the seventh. Acting manager John Russell, trying to keep the game at just one run, used Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter to get the final two outs in the eighth inning.
Royals closer Greg Holland came in to preserve the one-run lead, and it was the first time the Orioles had any excitement on the basepaths, although sadly it didn't result in anything. With one out, Nick Markakis walked to put the tying run on base. With Machado at the plate, Holland threw a ball that bounced away from the catcher. It's not certain that Nick would have made it to second base, but it looked close enough to try. But he stayed at first base as Jim Palmer complained about him not being heads up.
If Nick had gotten to second, he would have scored the tying run when Machado lined a base hit to right field (assuming that's what Machado would have done, you really can't know since the situation would have been different). Instead he got to third base on Manny's single. Adam Jones followed Manny's hit with an absolutely putrid at bat. He chased some pitches, including a ball that dove into home plate. It should have been strike three, but rookie umpire Chris Segal claimed it was a foul. It was not a foul, not even close, and Yost got himself thrown out of the game over it. Unfortunately Jones couldn't take advantage of his good fortune and struck out (again) on a similar pitch.
It appeared that Holland wanted no part of Chris Davis as he walked him on four pitches to load the bases with two outs. Nelson Cruz is a good guy to have up in that situation, and if it were down to it again I'd still want him there. But he couldn't get the job done, striking out to end the game.
This was a frustrating game to watch, but it's the kind of game that happens from time to time. Because Duffy pitched so well, every mistake was magnified. Oh well. It happens.
The Orioles and Royals are back tomorrow at 2 p.m. for the series finale. Ubaldo Jimenez will pitch for the Orioles, who will have to score some runs off of James Shields if they want to take the series.