Orioles take first lead of ALCS (O’s lose 2-1, trail 3-0 in series)

KANSAS CITY - There are a few specks of orange at Kauffman Stadium tonight for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. A quiet “O” rang out during the anthem.

Orioles fans are far outnumbered in the sea of royal blue. A buoy in the ocean.

The atmosphere is completely different than what we encountered at Comerica Park for the Division Series. Guess it changes when the home team has a 2-0 lead in games.

Hall of Famer George Brett threw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight, much to the surprise of no one. Former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie threw the first pitch of Game 3, getting a called strike on Nick Markakis, who grounded out on the next offering.

The Orioles came out hacking against Guthrie, who threw nine of his 10 pitches for strikes in the first inning. They took their first lead of the ALCS in the second on back-to-back doubles by Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy.

Pearce was 0-for-9 in the series before finding the gap in left-center field. Hardy went to right-center to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

gonzalez-presser-alcs.jpgMiguel Gonzalez gets the start in Game 4 after a long layoff.

“It’s been two weeks, but I’ve been preparing myself to stay focused and I’ve had a couple of bullpens and a live BP, so I’m excited,” said Gonzalez, who posted a 2.19 ERA in the second half. “I’m excited to go out there and give my team a chance to win a ballgame.”

Does Gonzalez feel more pressure with the Orioles losing the first two games at home and perhaps being on the verge of elimination if they don’t win tonight?

“We’ve still got to play our game no matter what,” he said. “We’ve been playing good, just a little... At times we had some rough base hits off of us, and those two games were tough to swallow, but we’re in a good position. We’re going to try to do as much as we’ve been doing the whole season.”

Gonzalez and Jason Vargas faced each other twice last season. Vargas, pitching for the Angels, tossed a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory, and Gonzalez earned a 3-2 win.

“He’s going to challenge our hitters and I’m going to do the same thing against them,” Gonzalez said. “All we’ve got to do is just try to give our team a chance to win a ballgame and do the fundamentals. I think I feel good about myself right now. I’m going to try to do as best as possible to give our team a chance to win the ballgame.”

Gonzalez posted a 2.19 ERA in the second half. The key?

“Confidence,” he replied. “I moved toward the middle of the pitcher’s (rubber) and I felt a lot more comfortable there. My first couple of games out of the season weren’t great, but I felt a lot better the second half.”

Gonzalez is making his first postseason start since the 2012 ALDS, when he held the Yankees to one run over seven innings.

“Yeah, 2012, it was a great game,” he said. “I felt good coming out of that game. But unfortunately, we didn’t win that game. But it’s definitely exciting again to be in this position and be able to play in the ALCS. I’m excited to go.”

Gonzalez knows he can’t let the Royals’ speed on the basepaths become a distraction.

“I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve got to keep changing speeds and my timing, as well, when there’s runners on. I think that’s really important. But I’m not going to try to do anything different than what I’ve been doing the whole year.”

Update: The Royals scored once in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game 1-1.

They loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk, and Lorenzo Cain scored on Alex Gordon’s grounder. Cain is 8-for-10 in the ALCS.

Wei-Yin Chen got in trouble in the fourth inning of the ALDS and never escaped it. He’s back in the dugout tonight at 59 pitches. Guthrie has thrown 83 pitches in four innings, including 32 in the fourth. Hardy worked him for 14 before grounding out.

Update II: Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly off Kevin Gausman gave Kansas City a 2-1 lead in the sixth.

Nori Aoki singled off Chen and pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson took third on Eric Hosmer’s one-out single to right.

Chen allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 80 pitches, 53 for strikes.

Bud Norris is the only Orioles starter to complete six innings in the postseason, going 6 1/3 in Game 3 of the Division Series.

Update III: The Orioles continue to trail 2-1 heading to the bottom of the eighth.

The Royals have retired 18 of the last 19 Orioles and 13 in a row. The Orioles don’t have a hit since Markakis’ single leading off the third. Ryan Flaherty walked in the fourth.

Gausman has retired all five batters he’s faced. The Orioles just can’t score.

Update IV: The Royals beat the Orioles 2-1 before 40,183 at Kauffman Stadium to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

Gausman retired all eight batters he faced, but the Orioles’ bats went silent. The last 16 hitters were retired, and 21 of the last 22.

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