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Bullpen fails again in Royals’ loss at Baltimore

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at 11:55 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 11:35 a.m.

— The continuing battle with Mother Nature is beyond the Royals’ control, but they’d better find a way to fix a suddenly leaky bullpen after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

Otherwise, they run the risk of seeing a promising start to their season slip away.

Matt Wieters flicked a tie-breaking double to left field in the eighth inning against Luke Hochevar that provided the winning run after Tim Collins opened the inning with a leadoff walk.

That hiccup came after Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera allowed runs Monday in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 11 innings after James Shields pitched a two-hit shutout through eight innings.

A day earlier, the Royals needed to rally in the ninth inning, before winning in the 10th, after Collins and Aaron Crow blew a two-run lead in the seventh by allowing four runs.

This time, Collins (1-1) worked a scoreless seventh inning after replacing starter Ervin Santana, but Collins put himself in trouble by starting the eighth with a walk to Adam Jones.

Collins struck out Chris Davis on a borderline call before the Royals chose to turn Wieters, a switch-hitter, to the left side by bringing in Hochevar, whose errant pickoff throw moved Jones to second.

Wieters then sliced a drive to left that fell just fair for a tie-breaking double. Jim Johnson protected the one-run lead in the ninth for his 12th save. Tommy Hunter (2-1) got the victory.

The Orioles jumped Santana for three runs in the first inning, but the Royals got one back on Alcides Escobar’s two-out RBI single in the third before pulling even on Alex Gordon’s two-run homer in the seventh.

Gordon’s homer came shortly after play resumed following a 48-minute rain delay — and after reliever Brian Matusz replaced Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen.

Santana worked five scoreless innings after a three-run first inning before exiting after the rain delay. He was probably coming out anyway after 103 pitches.

Gordon’s homer enabled him to escape with a no-decision.

Santana has given up 12 runs over 42 innings in his six starts; seven of those runs scored in the first inning.

The Orioles held a 3-1 lead in the seventh behind Chen when rain forced a delay with one out and a runner at first.

Matusz, another lefty, replaced Chen when play resumed. He retired Elliot Johnson on a fly to deep center before Gordon sent a 2-2 fastball over the right-field wall.

Chen appeared vulnerable on occasions but induced three double-play grounders in the first six innings. He allowed two runs and nine hits in 6 ⅓ innings.

The Orioles’ three-run first started with one-out ground singles by Manny Machado and Nick Markakis, which put runners at first and third.

Jones hit a foul pop that eluded first baseman Eric Hosmer deep down the right-field line before punching a broken-bat single into left for a 1-0 lead.

That ended Santana’s scoreless streak at 13 innings, which doesn’t count those four scoreless innings last Thursday against the Rays.

Santana struck out Chris Davis on a nasty slider in the dirt, but Wieters rammed a full-count slider into the right-center gap for a two-run double.

J.J. Hardy’s grounder to short ended a 33-pitch first inning.

The Royals got one-out singles in the third from Miguel Tejada and Elliot Johnson, which produced a run when Escobar poked a two-out RBI single into right.

But Chen stranded runners at first and third by retiring Billy Butler on a fly to center.

Next came an exchange of sparkling defensive plays: Tejada made a spinning stop on Jones’ sharp two-out grounder in the third and, while still whirling, threw to first for the out.

Even Jones acknowledged his former teammate with an arm salute.

The Royals had a runner at second with two outs in the fourth when Salvy Perez sent a grounder deep to the left-side hole. Hardy made a diving stop, which prevented the run, but then threw out Perez at first from his knees.

Johnson’s one-out single in the fifth started another scoring opportunity. He moved to third on an error by Machado, who threw wildly to first after barehanding Gordon’s slow grounder.

Chen escaped by getting Escobar to ground into a double play.

Santana pitched out of a first-and-third jam later in the inning by retiring Markakis on a fly to left after two-out singles by Nate McLouth and Machado.

The Royals put Chen in trouble again in the sixth with one-out singles by Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, but Jeff Francoeur killed it by grounding into a double play.

Three double plays in six innings.

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