KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first seven weeks of the Orioles’ season has been defined, maybe more than anything, by the club’s inability to get on a roll offensively and on the mound simultaneously.
This weekend at Kauffman Stadium was Exhibit A for that frustration.
The Orioles won the first two games Thursday and Friday by holding the Kansas City Royals to just one run in two games.
But instead of sweeping the four-game series or at least winning three, the Orioles were nearly no-hit Saturday and then couldn’t hold an early lead or mount enough of a comeback Sunday as the Royals won, 8-6, to secure a split.
The consecutive losses this weekend dropped the Orioles (22-20) out of first place in a tight American League East that the New York Yankees now lead by half a game.
“It’s still a split. You’re playing against another very, very good team,” said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning. “It’s not like they are going to lie down and let us come and beat them.”
The loss in the series finale — the Orioles ended up 3-4 against Kansas City (22-21) this year — also padded a statistical oddity: After winning April 6 on the road against the Detroit Tigers, the Orioles have lost six straight Sunday games this season.
The Orioles’ much-maligned offense had 12 hits and scored more than five runs for the first time since May 1.
And the Orioles still lost because starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who had been so good in May before Sunday, and reliever Troy Patton, who had allowed just one run in seven games, each served up a three-run home run to Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon.
“If you make two mistakes to a good hitter, they are going to make you pay for it,” Showalter said. “The problem was, there were people out there [on the bases] when they did.”
Gordon now has 13 homers and 35 RBIs against the Orioles in his career — the most against any team not in the American League Central. He has three multi-homer games in his career and two have come against the Orioles. His six RBIs in Sunday’s game set a career high.
Gordon had homered just once in his last 162 at-bats when he took Jimenez deep to right field in the fifth on a 92-mph fastball that sat in the middle of the plate.
“[Jimenez] really had one pitch that he’d really like to take back,” Showalter said. “He wanted to go down and away to Gordon and just left the ball middle-in, right in the sweet part. That’s where you want to stay away from, and he paid the price for it.”
Jimenez (2-5) seemingly was continuing his strong May by allowing just lone RBI singles in the first and fourth innings. But with two outs in the fifth, Gordon gave the Royals a 5-3 lead.
Jimenez recorded one more out and then left the game — tying his season-high for runs allowed (five) while delivering his second-shortest outing of 2014. Before allowing the three runs on the homer by Gordon, he had given up just three runs in his 241/3 previous innings in May.
“It was tough,” Jimenez said. “But I am prepared for it because I know how tough this game is. There is nothing I can do, but move on and get ready for my next one.”
Gordon’s homer against Patton in the seventh gave Kansas City an 8-3 lead, which seemed to be plenty given the combination of the Orioles’ struggling hitters and the Royals’ stout bullpen.
However, reliever Aaron Crow, who had a 17-inning scoreless streak before Sunday, allowed a walk, a single and then the three-run homer by Jones in the ninth. The Royals had to summon closer Greg Holland (12th save) to get the final two outs.
Jones’ homer was the Orioles’ 12th hit, and it led the club to its most runs in a game since the 6-5 win in the nightcap of the doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 1.
“You guys look at all that part. I think if you look at our win-loss record since May 1, you’d probably be more happier,” said Jones about the club’s 10-8 record in May. “If you score three runs and only give up two, who cares how many [more] you score? You win.”
As the Orioles deal with the maddening inconsistencies of their offense and pitching, they continue to linger just above the .500 mark. Putting a run together would require the Orioles to start playing complete games more consistently.
On Saturday, Royals left-hander Danny Duffy took a perfect game into the seventh in Kansas City’s 1-0 win. On Sunday, the Orioles touched up ace James Shields (6-3) for nine hits and a walk, but they stranded eight base runners in the game.
“We faced two really good pitchers. Duffy is obviously capable of doing great things,” Orioles outfielder David Lough said. “If he has control of his pitches, he can be deadly as he showed us [Saturday], and James Shields always comes out and competes every day. It was no easy matchup. We took a 2-0 lead [in the series], but there was four games to play.”
After Monday’s day off, the Orioles begin a two-game interleague series in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. And they’ll still be looking for all aspects of their game to jell at once.
“We move on. Pittsburgh was a playoff team last year and is part of a tough schedule,” Showalter said. “We’d like to have won the series, we’d like to have won all four [games], but they played a little better than we did today.”