KANSAS CITY - They were three outs from a comeback win. But they suffered a walk-off loss instead. Whit Merrifield’s two-run homer to left center off Mychal Givens gave the Kansas City Royals a 5-4 ninth-inning win over the Orioles tonight.
Givens came on to try to wrap up a 4-3 win. But he walked leadoff batter Brett Phillips on four pitches, and then Phillips moved to second on a sac bunt. Merrifield then drilled an 0-2 fastball 415 feet to end the game as the Orioles suffered a stunning loss. It was Merrifield’s first career walk-off homer and Givens could not put him away ahead 0-2 in the count.
The Orioles are 40-96 and the Royals, winning for the sixth time in seven games, are 44-91. There are now 4 1/2 games separating these teams.
Earlier, O’s right-hander Dylan Bundy pitched better than he has lately, but was on the hook for a loss after Kansas City took a lead against him in the last of the sixth. A late Oriole rally put Baltimore ahead with a lead that would not hold up.
The O’s got just two runs in seven innings off the K.C. starter, right-hander Heath Fillmyer. But they immediately got to his replacement in the eighth, scoring twice to take a lead off former Oriole Jason Hammel.
Trey Mancini’s homer leading off the inning was his 21st and made it a 3-3 game. Mancini hit a 1-2 slider for his fourth homer in six games. Adam Jones then singled to right, and two batters later scored on Tim Beckham’s double into the left-field corner. Beckham went 4-for-4 tonight, his fourth career game with at least four hits.
The Orioles were 0-82 this year when trailing after seven innings. They could have changed that with a win.
In the fourth, Beckham homered to center for a 2-0 lead. He hit a 93 mph 3-1 fastball from Fillmyer. It was Beckham’s 10th homer and traveled an estimated distance of 431 feet.
The Royals got one back on a longball off Bundy in the fourth. Right fielder Brett Phillips hit his second homer with K.C. to make it 2-1. He tagged a Bundy changeup 423 feet.
That was the 35th homer allowed by Bundy on the year, and that tied the Orioles’single-season record, which he has plenty of time left to break. Also allowing 35 in one year as an Oriole: Robin Roberts in 1963, Scott McGregor in 1986, Sidney Ponson in 1999 and Jeremy Guthrie in 2009.
The Royals scored twice in the sixth to move into the lead. Brian Goodwin’s booming RBI double to center tied it 2-2. He would score on Rosell Herrera’s single to center for the 3-2 advantage.
Bundy went 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, with one walk and eight strikeouts on 101 pitches. Bundy fanned eight in a game for the first time since June 23 at Atlanta.
Entering this game, Bundy had an 11.64 ERA over his past four starts. And since July 6 he was 1-6 with an 8.87 ERA over nine starts. Tonight went better than his last start versus the Royals. On May 8 in Baltimore he did not get an out, allowing five hits and seven runs, including four home runs. Bundy became the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to allow four or more homers without recording an out. The Royals tied their club record for most homers in one inning.
In the series finale on Sunday afternoon, right-hander David Hess (3-8, 5.08 ERA) pitches opposite right-hander Jorge López (0-3, 7.90 ERA).
Manager Buck Showalter on Givens in the ninth: “Just command. He walks a guy on four pitches, and I think the two pitches to the bunter were probably balls. We got an out there, and then got a two-strike count. I’m not sure, I think it was a breaking ball ... It’s not just closing, there’s pressure in different situations. There’s a certain finality to that inning. It’s a great job if you’re good at it. We’re going to continue to look for potential people down the road, and Mike’s one of them.”
Showalter on Beckham’s big night: “Timmy was in the middle of everything. I thought he played well defensively, and the whole infield defense has done a lot better in the last, I think, couple of weeks. But Timmy, he wasn’t too happy about last night. I knew that he came in here - the home run he hit, that ball was really, really hit well. I’m hoping Timmy finishes strong here in September.”
Bundy on his outing and not holding the lead in the sixth: “Yeah, fastball had a little more life and command was a little bit better, I’d say, than last outing. But still got room to improve, obviously. Thought the breaking pitches were a little sharper.
“That’s your goal, especially as a starter. You see things getting a little hairy, and you do your best to get out of that inning cleanly with still having a lead. You always want to finish the inning or finish the game off, in a perfect world, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”
Beckham on the loss: “That was a tough one. You know we want to win the game every night. I mean we laid it all on the line. It’s just a tough pill to swallow tonight. I’m sure (we) could go back. I mean, Givens would have did the same thing, you know, and trust his fastball. Make them beat you with your best stuff, so, I mean, it’s a tough one. Tomorrow is a new day. Want to come in and the win the ballgame tomorrow.”
Givens on the blown save chance: “Walked the leadoff guy and made a bad 0-2 pitch. Today, especially with how our team’s been playing. We’ve been playing really good, battling circumstances with what’s been going on this year. Today, I failed the team as far as [I] didn’t close out the game. They worked their butts off getting back in the game. Just have to do a better job. A bad 0-2 pitch. I was trying to just locate it down and away. The ball got away from me, and got into his bat path.”
Givens, is it tough to learn how to close games with so few save chances?: “This is a tough year for us, but it doesn’t matter. In that situation, the job should be done and I should have closed out the game. I failed the team as far as not being able to do my job today. That’s basically it. It doesn’t matter what we’ve been doing in the past few games. We’ve been playing our butts off and I should get the job done.”