Orioles can't capitalize in Kansas City
O's pick up Uehara, but fall short after Royals rally
KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles will put Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Royals in the "missed opportunity" category and move on.
When an opponent commits four errors and can't coax its starter through four innings, that's usually a recipe for O's success. But the Royals hung around with stellar long relief work and came through with timely extra-base hits in the latter innings. Consequently, Baltimore missed a golden chance to win a four-game road series.
"It's a total missed opportunity," catcher Gregg Zaun said. "We should have been able to close that one out. We allowed them to come back. That's something that can't happen and shouldn't happen."
Even after starter Koji Uehara wobbled in the sixth and surrendered a 3-1 lead, Baltimore still had a chance to win it late. An unearned run in the eighth made it a 4-4 game. But the Orioles couldn't get a shutdown inning from reliever Jim Johnson, and the Royals wound up with a three-run rally that earned them a split in the series.
The key play occurred after a leadoff double by David DeJesus. John Buck then hit a liner to left-center, and center fielder Felix Pie, with the glove on his left hand, was in position to make a lunging catch. But as Pie laid out for the ball, it slipped over his glove and rolled to the wall for an RBI triple. Kansas City then added two insurance runs, one coming courtesy of Coco Crisp's perfectly executed suicide squeeze.
Uehara had a streak of five consecutive quality starts snapped when he was unable to retire any of the four hitters he faced in the sixth. Uehara went into that inning with a 3-1 lead, but an RBI double by Billy Butler and a two-run double by Jose Guillen ended his day.
"You get spoiled," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "You expect that every time Koji goes out there he's going to be perfect, and he's not. He pitched very well today. I didn't quite see the finish on his pitches that you've seen before, but he's around the plate. I don't think he ran out of gas. Some days, you just have a little more life and finish on your pitches, and other days you don't.
"They bunched the hits at the right time and we didn't. That's the difference in the game."
Kansas City manager Trey Hillman didn't like what he was seeing from starter Luke Hochevar, and went with a quick hook in the fourth even though the score was just 3-1. Robinson Tejeda came on and didn't allow a hit to the 10 batters he faced. That left the Royals within striking distance, and they indeed struck in a hurry when Uehara wobbled in the sixth.
Johnson had played a key role for the Orioles in Saturday's 3-2 win, but didn't have similar results on Sunday. The extra-base hits by DeJesus and Buck at the start of the eighth put the Orioles in a hole from which they couldn't recover. Johnson needed for Pie to come up with the big defensive play, but it didn't happen.
"I hit it good and I thought [Pie] was probably going to catch it," Buck said. "And then to see him dive and miss it. ... I was already running hard and going into second. I saw they hadn't picked it up yet, so I kept going."
Uehara entered Sunday's game having had an extra day's rest and didn't feel fatigue was an issue in the sixth.
"I rushed a little bit in the sixth," Uehara said through his Japanese interpreter. "I got ahead in the count and then rushed."
While the Royals were banging out three doubles and two triples, the O's lone extra-base hit was Pie's run-scoring triple.
"Koji has put us in a position to win every time he has gone out there," Zaun said. "We just stopped putting runs on the board after that third inning and it cost us."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.