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Orioles fall to Royals, 3-2; Vidal Nuño stuck with the loss after late-game struggles

Dylan Bundy worked another quality start for the Orioles on this Friday night, but an eighth-inning run gave Kansas City the win at Kauffman Stadium.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles sent Dylan Bundy to the hill to face the Royals in the first game of this weekend series in Kansas City. The team received a day off thanks to a bit of rain yesterday, but the late-inning struggles crept up yet again in Missouri.

The recap

The first inning was the source of the first scoring of the ballgame, as Bundy had difficulties with the top of the Royals lineup the first time through.

With one out, Bundy surrendered back-to-back hard-hit doubles by Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain with the latter plating the first run of the game. The O’s on-paper ace would eventually escape the jam in just 18 pitches, but it was 1-0 Royals before fans at Kauffman Stadium could settle down into their seats.

To kick off the second inning against KC starter Danny Duffy, the freakish speed of J.J. Hardy burst onto the scene at Kansas City and shocked Royals fans overlooking the diamond... well, sort of. Hardy knocked a liner to right field that should have been a single, but a dreadful diving misplay by Jorge Soler led to the Orioles first triple of the season.

If you had Hardy hitting the season’s first triple, you win the grand prize.

The next at-bat, RBI machine Caleb Joseph pulled a rocket to left-center that hit off the wall, scoring Hardy and tying the ballgame at one. The offense wouldn’t cash in on the go-ahead opportunity, but at-least all who were watching this one can say they witnessed the unthinkable — a J.J. Hardy triple, the 14th of his career.

The next opportunity to cash in runs came in the top of the third when a two-out rally was abruptly crashed by Bobby Dickerson’s windmilling right arm. With runners on first and second, Trey Mancini popped a well-hit single into right field with Mark Trumbo running from third base.

Trumbo, who doesn’t exactly have wheels, got a poor jump and clearly should’ve stopped at third. But Dickerson felt otherwise, and sent Trumbo to be rather embarrassingly gunned down at the plate by Alex Gordon. It wasn’t Dickerson’s finest moment, and Twitter let him have it — as did Jim Palmer:

Fortunately, Bundy settled down through the next few innings and brilliantly worked in his off-speed offerings to keep the Royals lineup from barreling up many balls. The fastball was still sitting in the 90-92 range (sorry to tell you, velo fanatics) but the mix of pitches continued to provide solid innings for the team.

Through four innings of work Bundy had notched six strikeouts, but Brandon Moss rudely greeted him with a solo HR to kick off the fifth inning. With the Orioles offense sputtering, Moss took advantage of an 0-1 fastball that caught just a bit too much of the plate, putting the Royals ahead yet again, 2-1.

Bundy had very good stuff on the night (he ended with eight strikeouts), but the Royals were particularly pesky at the dish. Headlined by Alex Gordon’s 12-pitch AB in the third, the Kansas City night on offense wasn’t particularly profitable on paper but it did boost the pitch count in a big way.

For Duffy, he lived and lived successfully with his slow stuff. His slider-changeup duo was dominant on the night, a clearly well-planned strategic move that fit this matchup perfectly. He matched Bundy by staying away from the fastball and the middle of the plate, making for a heck of a pitcher’s duel in this one.

Bundy’s night ended after a scoreless sixth inning, capping off perhaps his grittiest start of the season. His final line — 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 112 pitches.

Now through eight starts, Bundy’s season ERA is at 2.26. Ace-like, indeed.

As soon as Bundy’s night ended, his battery-mate decided to chip in yet again at the dish. To lead off the seventh, Joseph smoked a double over the head of Gordon in right, presenting the opportunity to make it a fresh ballgame. And with the help of some small-ball, the game indeed was made as good as new.

Craig Gentry laid down a perfect bunt to help Joseph to third, and a wild pitch during Joey Rickard’s at-bat plated Joseph to tie the game at two. It wasn’t “Orioles baseball”, but well-executed baseball nonetheless.

This ended up being the Orioles bullpen’s game to win or lose, a statement that would appear on the surface to be a significant advantage for the Birds. However, after Mychal Givens worked a scoreless seventh, Buck Showalter made the decision to turn the game over to Vidal Nuño in the eighth, an odd decision following a day off.

With the rest of the bullpen seemingly fresh, Nuño ultimately got the call over Darren O’Day and coughed up the lead.

After a Cain single, Eric Hosmer roped a double to the left-center gap that would score the go-ahead run. Salvador Perez would’ve driven in the inning’s second run on his single if it weren’t for Joey Rickard throwing out Hosmer at the dish, but the damage was done, putting Nuño on the hook for the unfortunate loss.

Joseph would give the Orioles a bit of life in the top of the ninth with a triple (really, an identical misplay from Soler in right), but pinch-hitter Seth Smith popped out to left field to end the game and drop the O’s to 22-12 on the year.

With the Yankees loss to the Astros, the Orioles still sit atop the AL East by a half game. Tomorrow’s first-pitch in Kansas City is set for 7:15 p.m. ET.