KANSAS CITY -- Kyle Gibson called Wednesday evening a “really weird night overall.” That’s a true statement not only regarding his start against the Royals, but also for how the Orioles played as a whole.
Gibson was cruising and having his most efficient outing of the young season. He made a few mistakes -- hence why Kansas City seized the lead in the middle innings -- but with how potent Baltimore’s offense is, deficits have never seemed daunting this year. The O’s have come from behind in 10 of their 20 wins.
But not on this unorthodox night. For the first time this season, Baltimore was shut out in a 6-0 loss at Kauffman Stadium. It was only the fifth time in the team’s past 21 games that it’s been beaten, and it was the Orioles’ most lopsided affair of the year, in either direction. None of their nine previous losses had been by more than four runs.
The game lasted only 1 hour and 59 minutes, mostly due to the early pitching duel between Gibson and Royals starter Zack Greinke, a pair of veteran right-handers who each carved through the opposing lineup.
Gibson needed only 57 pitches to get through six innings. The 35-year-old had allowed only two runs to that point, both on hits by Vinnie Pasquantino -- a leadoff homer in the fourth and a one-out double in the sixth.
“I felt really good,” Gibson said. “Normally, any time you get early contact like that and you can get into the sixth inning with 50-something pitches, whatever it is, that’s ideal.”
“I thought he was really good,” manager Brandon Hyde said, “into that seventh inning.”
That’s when Gibson’s night unraveled. The Royals plated four in the seventh on four consecutive run-scoring plate appearances -- a sacrifice fly by Maikel Garcia, a double from Kyle Isbel, a triple by Bobby Witt Jr. and another double from Pasquantino (who was the first batter to face left-hander Keegan Akin following the exit of Gibson, who went 6 1/3 innings on 74 pitches).
The key to Kansas City’s success against Gibson was an aggressive approach. Its batters continued to swing early and stayed on the attack, which finally resulted in a big rally.
The Royals took 40 swings against Gibson and missed only one pitch. It was only the second of his 268 career starts in which he induced only one whiff, along with a Sept. 11, 2014, outing at Cleveland when he was pitching for Minnesota. Gibson’s whiff rate of 2.5 percent on Wednesday was a career low.
“They put some really good swings on some tough pitches,” Gibson said. “I left a couple in the middle, but man, I’ll have to go back and watch it again, but just felt like we had a good plan and were making pitches, and they did a good job putting the bat on the ball.”
On the other side, the Orioles’ hitters couldn’t be as patient as they’ve typically been. Entering Tuesday, they ranked second in MLB and first in the American League with 4.04 pitches per plate appearance. The 39-year-old Greinke stayed in the zone, throwing 33 of his 44 pitches for strikes in five scoreless innings before his removal (which came then due to the Royals monitoring workloads).
Baltimore finished with six hits, and only one baserunner advanced past first base -- Ryan Mountcastle, who hit a one-out double off righty Josh Staumont in the ninth.
“Greinke’s really around the plate a lot and not going to walk people,” Hyde said. “I thought we swung at some good pitches to hit. Just wasn’t our night offensively.”
Only a night earlier, the Orioles struck for 11 runs and 15 hits in their series-opening victory over the Royals. Now, the two teams will face off in a Thursday afternoon rubber match in which Baltimore will try to record its seventh consecutive series win.
Even if the O’s are coming off a down offensive night, their early-season track record gives them faith they’ll respond quickly.
“Oh yeah, there’s a lot of confidence in that,” center fielder Cedric Mullins said. “As long as the season is, you’re bound to have days like this. And I still think we swung the bat well, we just couldn’t string together those hits to score runs. We’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
Just like Gibson believes his underlying results prove he should yield better outcomes later.
“I’ll take a lot of those games. I’ll take my chances with throwing pitchers' pitches and them swinging at them,” Gibson said. “Overall, just a weird night with how often they were swinging and putting pitches that were on the edges in play pretty well.”