(AP) — Miguel Gonzalez posted the best ERA of any Baltimore starter in 2014 and helped the Orioles reach the AL Championship Series before they were swept by the Kansas City Royals.
He hasn’t been nearly as good this season, and another poor outing could lead to the Royals dealing Baltimore another blow to their playoff chances.
The Orioles look to avoid a season-worst sixth consecutive defeat when Gonzalez takes the mound Tuesday night in Kansas City.
Gonzalez finished 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA last season as Baltimore won 96 games and its first division title since 1997. That success hasn’t carried over, though, with Gonzalez (9-9, 4.73 ERA) going 0-3 with a 7.82 ERA over his last five starts and the Orioles (62-62) on the verge of falling under .500 for the first time since they were 48-49 on July 26.
The right-hander allowed at least five runs for the sixth time this season Thursday, giving up a season-worst seven through five innings of a 15-2 loss to Minnesota.
“That tells you that this game isn’t easy, and it’ll humble you for sure,” said Gonzalez, whose 2-1 loss to the Royals in Game 4 of last year’s ALCS ended Baltimore’s season. “No matter how good you are, you are going to go through some tough times.”
Baltimore’s rough stretch continued in its first of a seven-game road trip after the Royals (76-48) broke open Monday’s series opener with a seven-run sixth inning on their way to an 8-3 victory.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury before the Orioles fell 2 1/2 games behind Texas in a crowded race for the AL’s second wild card.
Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the first and is 5 for 10 over his last two.
“They pitched well and we didn’t swing the bats well,” said manager Buck Showalter, whose club finished with five hits. “They know that we got to get it going, and that’s not usually a good recipe against good pitchers.”
Kansas City improved to 13-4 since Aug. 7 with its third straight win. Mike Moustakas hit a two-run shot for his third homer in four games, and Omar Infante finished with two triples and a pair of RBIs.
Lorenzo Cain had three hits and is 11 for 20 in his last five against the Orioles, including the ALCS.
The Royals’ 13-game edge on Minnesota in the Central is by far the majors’ biggest division lead.
Danny Duffy (6-6, 4.18) gets the ball looking to bounce back from a rough outing. Duffy went 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA over his previous seven starts before he gave up four runs in five innings of Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Boston.
“The fourth and fifth were really clean, but you can’t wait to find your rhythm until the third or fourth inning,” said Duffy, who threw 75 of his 98 pitches in the first three innings. “Quite honestly, I thought it was one of my worst starts of the year. Not at all pleased with it.”
The left-hander felt much better after his last start against the Orioles on May 17, 2014, when he allowed two hits in seven innings of a 1-0 win. He didn’t pitch against Baltimore in the ALCS.