Lyles halts O's momentum in 7-5 loss to Royals (updated)

KANSAS CITY – With each swing, Carlos Santana was getting closer. A 277-foot flyout in the second inning, a 354-foot flyout in the third. 

Santana had seen 14 pitches from Jordan Lyles. None were sinkers. But the 15th was.

Lyles left a 90 mph sinker over the heart of the plate with one on and no out in the bottom of the fifth inning of Thursday’s game. Santana deposited it over the right-field wall for a two-run go-ahead shot. After the Orioles had battled back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game in the top half of the inning, the Royals reclaimed the lead, this time for good.

Kansas City (19-37) got the best of Lyles and Baltimore (24-34) in a 7-5 win in the series opener in front of 15,594 fans at Kauffman Stadium. 

"Just a front-hip sinker that I thought we could get one by him, get a quick punchout," said Lyles after the start. "But it started on the plate and covered way too much of the plate, and it was just a bad pitch."

The Orioles’ 31-year-old starter slogged through five innings, allowing six runs on eight hits and striking out just one. Whenever the O’s bats gained momentum, Lyles allowed the pendulum to swing the other way.

"Just a combination of multiple bad pitches throughout the whole night," said Lyles. "I didn't enjoy the way things went on my end. I need to be better and figure it out in between starts and try to get rid of this little tough stretch I've been through.

Lyles (3-5) has often run into trouble in the third inning of his starts this year, owning a 7.36 ERA in that frame. But to his credit, he has bounced back impressively, with an ERA of 0.82 in the fourth inning. Tonight’s outing went according to form, as Lyles surrendered four runs in the third but none in the fourth.  

The Royals pounced on Lyles with five hits and a walk in that third frame, with the firmest blows coming on a two-run single by catcher Salvador Perez and a two-run home run by designated hitter MJ Melendez.

"We wanted to attack him in a certain spot and I left it like two or so balls up under that spot," said Lyles of the home run.

“I though he just got some balls elevated there in the third inning. They put a big number up," said manager Brandon Hyde after the game. "But Jordan competes, he competes every pitch. Just wasn’t his night tonight.” 

As has been the team’s calling card through the first two months of the season, the Orioles overcame another multi-run deficit in the fifth inning, and it was the usual suspects providing the necessary spark.

Four consecutive hits by Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle resulted in three runs and a 4-4 game. Mountcastle’s two-run, 107.3 mph double past a diving Michael A. Taylor in center was the hardest-hit ball of the night.

"Once we got to the second time through the order, I thought we swung the bat a lot better, " said Hyde. "Mountcastle with a great piece of hitting with a line drive into center field."

But after loading the bases with two outs, catcher Robinson Chirinos grounded out before the O’s could take the lead.

The Orioles got to Royals starter Kris Bubic in the third, when Jorge Mateo singled up the middle, stole second and advanced to third on the throw by Perez. 

Mateo came home on a fielder’s choice by Mancini two batters later. But in a play reminiscent of the viral April 21 debacle in Oakland, Mancini was thrown out by Perez after committing to second, then changing his mind and attempting to dive back into first.

Baltimore and Kansas City called on a combined eight relievers, with each team’s bullpen surrendering one run. The Orioles scored theirs on an eighth-inning double by Mullins – his second of the night. The Royals got a sixth-inning sac fly from Bobby Witt Jr.

The Orioles send a struggling Bruce Zimmermann to the mound tomorrow night in hopes of evening the four-game series. The Royals will start 25-year-old Jonathan Heasely.

O's rotation has had its recent struggles
O's game blog: The series opener at Kansas City

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