Gonzalez, O's slowed in rubber-game defeat
Defense struggles behind right-hander; Cruz belts two-run homer
BALTIMORE -- An error on the first play of the game led to a run. In the fifth, the Orioles botched a rundown that helped the Royals score again.
All in all, this just wasn't the Orioles' day.
The defensive issues hurt starter Miguel Gonzalez as did the six RBIs from Royals second baseman Omar Infante in the Orioles' 9-3 loss before a rubber-game crowd of 38,368 on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Gonzalez gave the Orioles (12-12) six good innings. He allowed four runs -- three earned -- but the defensive mixups hurt him at times and gave the Royals (12-12) a lift, something that proved too much because starter James Shields allowed only two runs on three hits in seven sharp innings.
"Can't give [Shields] any wiggle room," said Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones. "You give him a lead, he knows how to sustain it. Tip your cap to him. The song [says], 'Mama says there'll be days like this.' Sometimes you get them, you know what I mean?"
Jones made a three-base error on the game's first play to set up a run that gave the Royals a lead they never relinquished. The Gold Glove Award winner from last year had gone 142 games without an error -- the last coming on May 17, 2013.
Nick Markakis moved to first base to fill in for Chris Davis - who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique injury prior to the game -- and made an errant throw during a rundown that allowed Alcides Escobar to avoid being picked off in the fifth. There was no error on the play as Escobar didn't advance, but it kept him on the bases and he later scored on Infante's two-run double.
The Orioles pitched out on that play and couldn't get the runner. That happened one other time as Jarrod Dyson stole second in the third -- even though catcher Steve Clevenger got a pitchout -- and later scored.
"We made a couple of good decisions with pitchouts; we weren't able to execute that," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Those are two, should be two free outs. Then obviously, Adam's one of the best center fielders in the game. He's been a rock for us out there. You give them those types of things that they don't earn, with Shields on the mound, that's not a good combination."
Infante's big day didn't make life any easier for the Orioles. His RBI groundout made it 1-0 in the first and a sacrifice fly scored Dyson after the stolen base in the third.
After that, Infante blasted a two-run double in the fifth off Gonzalez before hitting a two-run homer against Evan Meek in a four-run seventh that put Kansas City up, 8-2. Infante drove in the first six runs and finished the day 2-for-3 -- matching his career high with six RBIs.
Infante also did it last September with the Tigers -- against Shields.
"It was a great day for me," Infante said. "I'm happy because that has not happened too many times for a player. It was a great day for the team. I've been working hard in the cage. The last couple of days, I hit a lot of fly balls. I don't like that, I want to drive the ball."
The Orioles didn't drive the ball much against Shields. They got two infield singles and a Nelson Cruz two-run homer and nothing else. Cruz's two-run shot in the sixth ended a streak of 40 2/3 innings without a homer in Baltimore for the Orioles, whose only other run came when Markakis scored on a Greg Holland wild pitch in the ninth. They finished with five hits overall and dropped two of three games in this series.
"[Shields] had like two or three secondary pitches," Cruz said. "Basically, most of the time, he's always on top of his game. Today was no different."
The Orioles get a well-timed day off on Monday before facing the Pirates at home on Tuesday. Baltimore will be making a move to fill Davis' spot on the 25-man roster, but Jones said he's not going to complain about the injuries and problems of this first month.
"There are going to be injuries -- that's why you have a 40-man roster," Jones said. "That's why you have guys in the Minor Leagues. Now, you have guys that are backups. You never know what could happen. You've got to make the adjustments and no crying in sports."