Orioles let late-inning chances slip away
Bases-loaded situation with game tied in seventh produces nothing
BALTIMORE -- If there is one sequence from Game 2 of the American League Championship Series that figured to haunt the Orioles on their flight to Kansas City, it came in the bottom of the seventh inning of an eventual 6-4 loss.
That was when Baltimore sent the meat of its batting order to the plate with first and second and nobody out in a tie game.
At that moment, with the orange towels waving everywhere and the screeches of hope at the highest decibels imaginable, it was hard to believe the Orioles would be denied in their quest to take a lead for the first time in the series.
But instead of seizing the momentum, the Orioles gave it right back to the Royals and never got it back, and they now trail 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
"We're putting ourselves in opportunities, in good situations and there's nothing wrong with that," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. "Just continue plugging away. That's our team style. We live and die with it."
It's just that the late-inning timely hit has been nowhere to be found for the O's in the first two games of the series. Instead, the surging Royals have gotten all of them, winning both games in their last at-bat.
Kelvin Herrera was the man who sucked the life out of the Baltimore bats during Saturday's critical sequence.
This, after Herrera gave the Orioles life by somehow missing first base entirely with his foot on a grounder by Nick Markakis, and then walking Alejandro De Aza.
The flame-throwing righty quickly got off the mat by striking out Jones on three pitches.
"Well he threw 98 with run, and then threw an 89-mph changeup and then threw a 99-mph two seamer," said Jones.
The Orioles sent their best hitter to the plate next, and Nelson Cruz came through yet again, belting a single through the hole and into left. With one out, Markakis was held at third, a decision that could only be questioned with the benefit of hindsight.
The man who fielded the ball in left was Alex Gordon, who is probably the best at his position in the AL.
"Well, I think they're not a hundred percent sure with the range of their shortstop, whether he's going to backhand that ball and back door you at third," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "So you've got to be a little bit cautious. I don't know if anybody is more of an accurate top of the hop thrower than Gordon. Obviously the Gold Glove is warranted, but I think a lot of it has to do with what a good thrower he is, too."
So that that single by Cruz loaded the bases with one out, and Steve Pearce, an emerging hitter, just needed a sacrifice fly to break the tie.
But Herrera came through again, as Pearce popped one into shallow, shallow left field, with Gordon catching the ball just a couple feet behind shortstop Alcides Escobar.
"He throws 100 mph," said Pearce. "He throws the ball hard. Especially when he throws it down the middle and that thing runs. He's a good pitcher. He's tough to hit. Yeah, it would have been nice to get a sac fly right there."
The last hope was J.J. Hardy, but his flair to right was snared in the corner by yet another Royals speedster, Lorenzo Cain, and the inning was agonizingly over for the Orioles.
"We've been coming through all year in those situations," said Pearce. "It definitely hurt to not get it done. That was a great opportunity for us and we didn't take advantage of it."
Cruz gave the Orioles another breath in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out single to right-center. Pearce was the tying run, but he struck out on a pitch in the dirt by Greg Holland to end the game.
"We put up four runs, we put up six last night," said Jones. "I'd say that's quality. They just put up [two] more. We're taking great approaches. We've been taking great approaches all year. I've got nothing bad to say about our approach."
The results, on the other hand, need to change. Otherwise, the Orioles will be golfing, fishing or doing other non-baseball activities faster than they hoped.
"I count on my team," said Jones. "My team counts on me. We'll be back here in Baltimore. That's our goal anyway."