Chris Tillman struggles as Orioles fall 4-3 (quotes added)

KANSAS CITY - Chris Tillman struggled and his offense couldn’t save him. As a result, the Orioles have their first three-game losing streak of the 2017 season.

The Orioles hit three solo homers - two by catcher Francisco Peña, one by Chris Davis - but lost 4-3 to Kansas City in front of 24,662 at Kauffman Stadium.

The Orioles fall to 22-13 overall, 9-10 on the road and to 2-9 in their last 11 games in this ballpark. Their last three losses have each been by a single run.

tillman-throws-grey-sidebar.jpgIn his second start of the year, Tillman kept weaving in and out of trouble and his pitch count rapidly escalated. He gave up eight hits and three runs over 4 1/3 innings, throwing 105 pitches. Tillman has an ERA of 2.89 through two starts.

Alec Asher replaced him with two on in a 2-2 tie in the fifth. Later in that inning, a sac fly by Jorge Bonifacio gave the Royals the 3-2 lead, the run was charged to Tillman.

Peña hit solo homers for the Orioles in the third and fifth innings after hitting just one home run over his first 54 plate appearances. He predicted to O’s public relations director Kristen Hudak before the game he would hit one and then say, “Hi Mom!” to the MASN dugout camera. Maybe the second homer was a bonus. His first traveled 405 feet and the second went 430 feet.

Through five innings, Royals starter Nate Karns was piling up a career-high 12 strikeouts. He got most off his knuckle curve. Karns became the first pitcher in the majors to fan 12 in five or fewer innings since the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta against Arizona on June 5, 2016. Karns allowed five hits and two runs.

Down 3-2 heading to the sixth, Davis greeted reliever Seth Maness with a solo homer to left to tie it. He hit No. 5 on a 2-1 pitch. Davis had homered just once over his previous 24 games.

But when Brandon Moss homered for the second straight night, Kanas City untied it for a 4-3 lead in the last of the sixth. He connected off Asher, a drive of 420 feet off an 86 mph fastball. Asher took the loss.

The O’s offense has produced just five runs in this series. The Orioles have scored three runs or less 16 times this year, going 6-10. Outside of the three homers tonight, O’s batters went a combined 3-for-30 and went hitless after Davis’s home run, going 0-for-12 to end the night.

In the series finale on Sunday, the Orioles need a win to avoid getting swept in three straight. Kevin Gausman (2-3, 6.63 ERA) faces right-hander Chris Young (0-0, 5.93 ERA).

Some postgame quotes:

Manager Buck Showalter on the bullpen, specifically Darren O’Day and Brad Brach: “I think we should be back on our feet tomorrow with everybody. Darren was dealing with a little something, but it looks as if that’s behind him. Brad, I just wanted to give him three days, regardless. That’s hard to do the way we’re constituted down there right now. We’ll see. ... If we can get a little deeper in the games with our starters, that will work its way out.”

Showalter on Tillman’s night:“I just think he’s going to get a little crisper with his stuff. His command is going to get better, I hope, as long as he’s physically OK. His track record shows that will happen. He’s going through some growing pains, so to speak, and that’s frustrating for him, but a lot of pitchers wouldn’t keep us engaged in that game. The story the last two nights for me is just we haven’t scored any runs. What did we strike out, (15) times tonight? We didn’t string many at-bats together. I’ll choose to give them credit for that.”

Showalter on whether the team will make a pitching roster move for Sunday?:“We’re prepared to do that if we need to. I’ll be talking to Dan (Duquette) here shortly, but we’re always going to try to stay ahead of those needs, if that answers your question.”

Tillman on his outing: “I felt pretty good. I think early on, I physically felt good and as the game went on I tried to do too much because I was feeling good. I kind of got out of my delivery and started falling behind guys and staying behind them as opposed to making my pitch early on and getting into a count that favors pitchers. I don’t think it was a step back. I think every one going forward is a step forward as long as you physically feel good. Mechanically, I got (in) my way this start. I was trying to do too much later in the game.”

Was Tillman going to his secondary pitches a lot early on?: “I think it’s the same as last start. I think I threw a lot of secondary pitches last start, too, trying to really get a feel for my delivery and release point. You usually have to take the positive and forget the rest.”

Peña was asked if he predicted he would hit a home run:“To be honest, I said something playing around in BP. I was like, ‘Hey, when I hit a home run today, I’m going to say, ‘I love you, mom’ in the camera. Thank God he hung that pitch right there. I wasn’t trying to (hit one). I was trying to stay short right there because, like I said, he was doing a real good job with all the guys mixing pitches and throwing some real good breaking balls. To be honest, I wasn’t calling it like it happened.”

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