KANSAS CITY - So it’s come to this: The Orioles will attempt to become only the second team to rebound from a 3-0 deficit in games to win the League Championship Series.
Tall order? It’s nosebleed territory.
The Orioles have lost three games by a combined five runs, including tonight’s 2-1 setback to the Royals before 40,183 at Kauffman Stadium.
They pitched well enough to win. The Royals pitched a little bit better, retiring the last 16 batters and 21 of 22.
“It’s tough,” said first baseman Steve Pearce, who doubled in the second inning and scored on J.J. Hardy’s double. “We lost another close game. We’ve got to find some way to start pulling these games out. One loss left, so we’ve got to find some way to get it done.
“They’ve been pitchers’ duels, really good pitching. I think they’re offensively just getting it done, finding some way to get that run across and all three days it’s always been what’s going on. They’ve been getting that big hit, that big timely hit that we haven’t been able to get.”
Pearce smoked three balls and was rewarded with one hit. Third baseman Mike Moustakas robbed him with a sensational diving catch in the fourth.
“Hits are hard to come by this series,” Pearce said. “We’ve got to find some way to get on base, maybe start working the count or something.”
Now comes the biggest challenge of the season.
“One game at a time. That’s it. Just one game at a time,” Pearce said. “We’ve got to look to just win tomorrow.”
To do it, they’ve got to fight off a Royals team that won’t take no for an answer.
“They’re a good team, they’re a scrappy team,” Pearce said. “They don’t strike out, they managed to put the ball in play and get hits. That’s just the way the series has gone so far.
“It’s hard to take advantage of mistakes when they’re not making any.”
The Royals scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on singles by Nori Aoki and Eric Hosmer off left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly off Kevin Gausman. Hosmer ripped a single past Pearce, who was holding pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson off the bag.
“He hit the ball hard,” Pearce said. “I’ve got to hold on as long as possible because I don’t know if (Chen’s) going to the plate or coming over to first base. A lefty on a fastball as I’m holding the bag, it’s tough to get off and read the ball.
“It was huge. And Butler got it done. They’ve just been finding ways to get it done. They’re on that wave right now and when you’re on that wave and you feel unbeatable, it’s a great feeling to have for a ballclub. I can tell you that.”
It’s making the Orioles feel pretty lousy.
“It was tough,” said outfielder Nelson Cruz. “We can’t get it done with three hits. We have to do a better job finding a way to score runs, getting hits. We haven’t been able to do it.
“We’ve had to win four games since the series started, so hopefully we start tomorrow.”
Cruz added that the Orioles “should do a better job.”
“We did a really good job the first two games,” he said. “The only difference is we didn’t get ahead late in the games. But right now, like I said, we should do a better job. The pitching was great today. The offense wasn’t there.”
The offense disappeared tonight and had no chance to reappear with the procession of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland throwing gas.
“It’s tough. They’re good pitchers,” Cruz said. “Like I said, we’ve have to win four games since the series started, so we should start tomorrow.”
They have no choice but to start Wednesday or they’re going home.
This is the 10th time in 58 LCS since the advent of the best-of-seven format in 1985 that a team has held a 3-0 advantage, including the sixth time in the ALCS. Only the 2004 Red Sox rallied to win it. The other teams in the ALCS were swept.
“They’re earning everything,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “Strong people. Thing you notice up here, strong guys, the strength and they muscle balls over the infield. Squaring up these pitchers, especially the guys they are pitching this time of year, is hard to do. Our guys, I always feel like they’re one away from getting the thing going the other way.
“Always feel like the momentum can change. If we can get one under your belt and get a few things to work our way and make some things, we feel like we can get it spinning the other way. Otherwise, we shouldn’t show up tomorrow.
“I know what our guys in our locker room feel like. They know they’re up against some good competition. But always one more opportunity away, which is tomorrow. And we’ll sleep fast and our guys will be ready.”
Jeremy Guthrie wore a T-shirt in his postgame interview that read “These O’s Ain’t Royal.” The hits just keep on coming. Just not the kind that the Orioles needed tonight.
“It’s been such close games and they pitched us a little bit better. But not much,” Showalter said. “Wei-Yin, tough luck. Made a couple of really good pitches on (Lorenzo) Cain and Hosmer and didn’t get much to show for it. Nicky (Markakis) had a flare to left field. We just couldn’t take advantage. Just not a lot offensively.”
“Gonzalez has pitched some big games for us and especially on the road and in tough spots,” Showalter said. “They’ll get challenged again tomorrow.”