Wrapping up a tough weekend for the Orioles

KANSAS CITY - Earlier this year, the Orioles lost a 9-1 lead and a game at Yankee Stadium. Today, they blew a 5-0 lead in Kansas City.

As they left Kauffman Stadium today, the Orioles realized they’ve got some regrouping to do. They’ve lost four in a row - all by one run. After scoring just five runs in the first two games of this series, they got eight today. That was not enough.

The Orioles lost for the 10th time in their last 12 games in this ballpark as Kansas City completed a three-game sweep with a 9-8 win. This is the first time they’ve been swept three straight here since April 11-13, 2000.

Staked to a 5-0 lead today when the Orioles scored four in the fourth, right-hander Kevin Gausman could not hold the lead through the bottom of the inning. Kansas City scored five times to the game. The last three runs came on a Mike Moustakas homer to right for the 5-5 tie.

Kevin-Gausman-gray-sidebar.jpgGausman’s ERA jumped to 7.19 as he allowed nine hits and five runs over 3 1/3 innings. He gave up four runs or more for the fifth time in nine games.

So far, there have been few glimpses of what Gausman showed during his strong second half in 2016.

“We get five runs early in the game, I’ve got to be able to shut the door,” Gausman said. “It’s frustrating. But when you put yourself in that many deep counts, I think they started eliminating my curveball early in the game. When I get in those situations where I have to throw a strike, I think the hitters pretty much know what they’re going to get. That’s the biggest thing.”

This was Gausman’s second start where he didn’t pitch four innings, not counting his early ejection in Boston. He went 2 2/3 innings on April 18 at Cincinnati and gave up eight runs.

“I’ll be all right,” he said. “I’ll bounce back. I’ve got another start in a couple days and that’s the good thing, that I’m confident enough in myself to know that I’ll be able to figure this out. Because I’m not the pitcher that my numbers are showing. When I look at how hard they hit just about every hit they got today, that’s how I base my starts off of. They were hitting the ball pretty well today.”

Gausman has allowed a .366 batting average and 13 extra-base hits to right-handed batters this season. They were 7-for-12 in this game.

Manager Buck Showalter said his pitchers have had an issue putting hitters away.

“We’ve had that problem a lot here lately,” he said. “Look out there and it seems like every one of our starters are averaging 20 pitches per inning. And our relief pitchers, too. I don’t care if you’ve got 10 guys in your bullpen, that’s not a good recipe. We’ve got to do a little better job of taking advantage of the counts in our favor.”

Showalter said Gausman needs improved fastball command and it just hasn’t consistently been there for him.

“The skills are there,” he said. “I think mentally and emotionally they want to do it so badly that sometimes you just can’t get to it. Sometimes you’ve got to try a little less. That sounds crazy.”

The Orioles started the year 8-1 in one-run games. Now they’ve lost their last four games- 7-6 at Washington and here this weekend by 3-2, 4-3 and 9-8 scores.

“You have to go back and look at what kind of mistakes we’re making,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “We made a couple of mental mistakes today on defense and they got some key hits when they needed them. I think the biggest thing for us is to kind of go back to square one, kind of hit the restart button and after this day off, get after the Tigers.”

One bright spot this weekend was Davis’ bat. He went 3-for-6 over the last two games with two homers. Caleb Joseph also had a huge day and series. He went 2-for-5 today with a two-run homer and RBI double in the ninth that pulled the Orioles within a run. But Kelvin Herrera fanned Seth Smith and got Jonathan Schoop to fly out to record his third save in three days.

With the game tied 5-5 in the fifth inning, third baseman Manny Machado made a bizarre error. Kansas City had runners on first and second and no one out. Alcides Escobar bunted toward third. Machado threw to second for a force but no one was covering the bag and the ball sailed into center field. The Royals never gave up that lead after scoring twice that inning to go ahead 7-5.

“Just a miscommunication. Trying to make a play and just didn’t execute it,” Showalter said.

I asked if a player wasn’t sure which bunt defense play was on there.

“I’m not going to get into that. We just had a miscommunication and just didn’t execute what we were supposed to do,” he said.

It was that kind of frustrating day and weekend for the Orioles. At 22-14, they get Monday off and begin a three-game series on Tuesday night at Detroit.

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