It could have been a sweep. It probably should have been two out of three.
The afternoon after they let a lead slip away in a 7-5 loss, the Orioles were at it again, taking a one-run lead into the seventh but watching the Royals bounce right back with two in the seventh and another in the eighth en route to a 6-4 victory.
This had the feeling of an entertaining game - particularly after Jonathan Villar manufactured his own run to put the Orioles up 4-3 in the seventh.
But late leads mean the bullpen. And the bullpen means “uh oh” for the Orioles.
The leaking started when Adalberto Mondesi led off the seventh with an infield single off of Richard Bleier, who had retired the five batters he’d faced up to that point. Miguel Castro came on and did his job, getting a foul pop-up and groundout from his two batters, but Paul Fry got the call to finish the frame against the lefty-swinging Alex Gordon.
It’s a move that should have worked, but this is 2019 and nothing goes according to plan. Gordon went with a pitch away and drove it into the left-center field gap, allowing Mondesi to score easily and make it 4-4.
That got manager Brandon Hyde to summon Shawn Armstrong, but there was still no relief to be found. Cheslor Cuthbert walked, Meibrys Viloria singled up the middle to score Gordon, and suddenly the Royals were ahead 5-4.
A Whit Merrifield home run in the eighth - also off Armstrong - rounded out the scoring.
Up to that point, it was the Orioles who had been the comeback kids. Kansas City took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first, but Baltimore bounced back in the third. Richie Martin led off with a bloop single to right, and Hanser Alberto - because Kansas City starter Danny Duffy is a lefty, and Alberto is the majority owner of all left-handed pitching - roped a double down the left-field line to put runners at second and third.
Trey Mancini brought in both runners with one swing, hitting an opposite field single to tie the game at 3. Anthony Santander followed with a single, but a double play and failed squeeze attempt ended the threat.
In the sixth, the Orioles went ahead, and Villar did almost all of the work himself. He singled to left with one out, and then stole second on Duffy and Viloria. Viloria’s throw went into center field, and Villar took the extra base. Pedro Severino eventually tapped a slow roller that went past a lunging Duffy to second base, but even with the infield in Villar beat the throw to make it 4-3.
That was the Orioles’ last run, but they had one final gasp after the Royals took the lead back. In the eighth and with Baltimore still down only a run, Anthony Santander led off with a hit to left field that by hustling out of the box he turned into a double.
The tying run was in scoring position with no outs, but the Orioles couldn’t get him in. Renato Nunez struck out, Villar chopped back to the pitcher, and pinch-hitter D.J. Stewart grounded to first with Santander 90 feet away.
It was a game the Orioles could have won, perhaps one they should have won, but ultimately, they didn’t get the situational pitching they needed. Baltimore grabbed a first-inning lead when Alberto singled and eventually scored on Nunez’s fly to right, but Aaron Brooks couldn’t get the lead to hold up for even an inning.
Mondesi singled and Jorge Soler walked, and Hunter Dozier’s double to right scored both for a 2-1 Royals lead. Ryan O’Hearn then singled in Dozier, Viloria singled and Brett Phillips walked, loading the bases, and the damage would have been worse had Brooks not fanned Jorge Lopez to leave the sacks full.
Brooks settled down from there, but he had already ratcheted up his pitch count, meaning the bullpen was taking over sooner rather than later. And on Sunday, the relievers weren’t up to the task.