BALTIMORE (AP) — After surprising much of the American League for the first six weeks, the Baltimore Orioles are suddenly in a rut.
The Orioles lost for the fifth time in seven games Sunday, beaten by the Kansas City Royals 4-2.
Not only did Baltimore strand a lot of runners in the last two games — 19, in fact — it couldn’t touch Kansas City relief pitching in that span.
The Orioles managed just four singles in 7 2/3 innings against the Kansas City bullpen.
“I thought they pitched real well for the most part,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “Their bullpen, a lot of
big young arms there. They’ve got their confidence. And we didn’t do much after the fifth there. That was the story.”
Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler hit home runs off Brian Matusz, and Alcides Escobar had two hits to lead Kansas City.
Francoeur had a terrific series, going 7 for 12, including two homers. Butler had home runs in successive games, who won two consecutive games for the first time since a four-game winning streak from May 12-15.
“They made us pay for whatever mistakes Brian made. We had trouble with Butler and Francoeur and they got us again here,” Showalter said.
Baltimore’s Adam Jones, whose six-year, $85.5 million contract extension was officially announced before the game, extended his career-long hitting streak to 18 — longest in the majors this season — with a fifth-inning double.
Tim Collins (2-0) was the winner with 1 1/3 perfect innings in relief of starter Luke Hochevar.
Collins, Kelvin Herrera, Jose Mijares, Aaron Crow and Jonathan Broxton combined to limit the Orioles to one hit in the final 4 1/3 innings. Broxton worked the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances.
With two outs in the ninth, J.J. Hardy hit a short fly.
Francoeur came in from right field and converged with second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who dropped the ball for an error that allowed Hardy to reach second. Nick Markakis struck out to end the game.
Matusz (4-5) had a three-game winning streak broken. He allowed three earned runs and seven hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out five.
“I made some bad pitches today to their big hitters. That was my goal starting the game, not to let their big guys hurt me, and I did. And I made some good pitches when I needed to but I fell shy today,” Matusz said.
Francoeur hit a leadoff home run in the sixth that put Kansas City ahead 3-2.
“He’s just hot right now, swinging the bat really well. He’s got a good eye for the plate, battles with two strikes. Fouls a lot
of pitches off and makes the pitches work. He’s just hot and was able to connect,” Matusz said.
Butler hit a long, arcing home run to left field in the first off Matusz. The Orioles tied it in the bottom half on a single by
Hardy and an RBI double by Markakis.
In the second, Francoeur hit a sinking liner to center field that Jones mishandled. It was ruled a single and an error. With one out, Escobar lined a ball off second baseman Robert Andino’s glove for a single. Mitch Maier bunted to Matusz, and Francoeur scored on the safety squeeze for a 2-1 lead.
Baltimore tied it in fourth when Andino, who reached on a fielder’s choice with one out, stole second and advanced to third on catcher Humberto Quintero’s throwing error. Xavier Avery, who had been in a 2-for-22 rut, hit an RBI single.
The Royals broke the 2-all tie in the sixth when Francoeur led off with a home run to left field that was barely fair. It was his fifth home run of the season, all on the road. With one out, Escobar singled, and he scored on Quintero’s RBI double.
NOTES: Jones’ hitting streak is the longest by an Orioles player since Markakis had a 19-game string last June. … The Orioles dropped consecutive series for the first time this season. … RHP Tommy Hunter (2-2, 5.07) is scheduled to pitch for the Orioles when they open a three-game series in Toronto on Monday night. … Baltimore RHP Stu Pomeranz strained his left oblique warming up in the bullpen. He won’t make the team’s trip to Toronto. Showalter expects him to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)