With the series tied at one apiece, the O's sent Miguel Gonzalez to the mound with an opportunity to dispatch the Royals. Gonzalez, however, didn't bring his best stuff nor did he receive much support from either the offense or the defense. Even with a wild breaking ball, James Shields was dominant for 7 innings, including 6 strikeouts, and allowed just 2 earned runs. Throw in some questionable defense plays and the Royals left Baltimore with a series victory in hand.
Trouble started on the very first play of the game. Royals lead off man Norichika Aoki hit a fly ball to Baltimore CF Adam Jones, who couldn't squeeze and the ball dropped out of his glove. Aoki ended a third and the next batter, Omar Infante, picked up his first of six RBI with a ground ball out. Gonzalez recovered and struck out the next two batters, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, swinging.
Infante struck again in the Royals half of the third. Jarrod Dyson led off the inning with an infield single and stole second. Aoki grounded out to move Dyson over to third before Infante added a sacrifice fly for his second RBI of the game. Hosmer grounded out to end the inning, but the Royals were up 2-0 before the Orioles even had a hit off of Shields. The 5th inning would go similarly for the Royals. Alcides Escobar led off with a single and moved to third on an Aoki single. Infante doubled to deep left and snagged his third and fourth RBI of the game.
It would not be until the 6th inning that the Orioles would finally dent Shields. Jemile Weeks hit a soft liner to short that Escobar tried to play with a bare hend, recognizing the speed of the baserunner. He wasn't able to make the play and Weeks was awarded an infield single. The next batter, Nelson Cruz, made no such mistake, launching a ball into the Oriole bullpen for a homer. Cruz's 7th homer of the year cut the Kansas City lead to two runs and brought the crowd back into the game for the next few minutes.
Evan Meek relieved Gonzalez for the 7th inning and everything fell apart afterward. He breezed through two batters and looked to be in command before Aoki dropped a bunt right between the pitcher and second for a base hit. Infante then blasted a pitch into the left field seats for his fifth and six RBIs of the game, as well as erasing the two runs the Orioles just scored in the inning before. Things went from bad to worse for Meek at that point. He allowed back-to-back singles to Hosmer and Butler, then Alex Gordon dumped a fly ball over an extremely shallow Adam Jones for a two RBI double. Josh Stinson relived Meek and got the final two outs of the inning. Stinson stayed on for the 8th and walked as many batters as he could, but did not allow a run. Meanwhile, Ryan Webb came on to pitch the Royals half of the 9th and was also knocked around for 2-out run.
For KC, Shields returned in the bottom of the seventh for one final inning and picked up two strikeouts. The O's wouldn't fare any better against fire-baller Kelvin Herrera. They did manage a run off of closer Greg Holland, capitalizing on a Nick Markakis infield single, a Delmon Young double, and a wild pitch. Final line for the Orioles: 3 runs on 5 hits.
The Orioles will have an off day tomorrow before their first interleague series of the year against Pittsburgh.
Five game notes:
- Not the best game from Miguel Gonzalez. While he generally minimized the damage and only walked one, he let lead off men reach with regularity and worked up a pitch count rather quickly.
- Oriole hitters managed just three hits off Royals starter James Shields. Not exactly the offense needed to win games. In fact, the Orioles struggled on offense over the entire series - a huge turn from the explosion we saw against Toronto.
- What happened to Adam Jones in this game? He drops the very first contact of the game and then gets brutalized for playing extremely shallow against a guy who is actually a decent hitter. His day at the plate won't help anyone forget his poor game in the field either.
- Interesting game if you were a pitcher. Infield singles aplenty, about half of them bouncing off of pitchers or landing near the mound. Known pitcher killer Billy Butler struck again, blasting a shot off of Ryan Webb (although it would appear that Webb is fine).
- Not the best day from the bullpen either. The best play from those guys all day was Darren O'Day's bare-hand snag of the Nelson Cruz homer. Meek and Stinson got knocked around left and right. Ryan Webb suffered a similar fate.