Walks haunt Royals in 5-3 loss to Orioles

08/12/2012 12:00 AM

08/13/2012 12:47 PM

This isn’t news. Walks lead to trouble. Multiple walks in the same inning almost guarantee it. Fast forward … and the Royals settled for a good road trip Sunday, instead of a really good one, by losing 5-3 to the Baltimore Orioles.

“I felt I was throwing the ball well,” Royals starter Bruce Chen said. “There were a couple of home runs, but it came down to the sixth inning, and I let a couple of guys get on base, and one of them ended up scoring. It’s a tough loss.”

Those “couple of guys” reached on walks.

Let’s itemize the damage:

The Orioles opened the scoring on a two-run homer by rookie Manny Machado in the second inning after Royals starter Bruce Chen issued a leadoff walk to Mark Reynolds.

Before going further, let’s acknowledge that Machado, promoted prior to Thursday’s series opener, can hit a hanging pitch a long way. It can be a cutter, a curve or a slider. If it hangs, he bangs.

Machado, just 20, went six for 15 in the four games with three homers, a double and a triple while scoring five runs and driving in seven.

“The scouting reports we got said he had a couple of holes in his swing,” manager Ned Yost said. “We couldn’t find them. He hurt us. He won two games for them against us.”

Even so, the Royals answered by scoring twice in the fourth and one in the fifth against Baltimore starter Tommy Hunter before the Orioles pulled even in their fifth on a two-out homer by Nick Markakis.

That gets us to the Baltimore sixth, when Chen put himself in a one-out pickle by walking Adam Jones and Lew Ford. That prompted a bullpen summons for Louis Coleman, who yielded an RBI single that Reynolds muscled into left field.

Not a bad pitch, but …

“That situation,” Coleman said, “I’ve got to make a better pitch. It caught too much of the middle (of the plate).”

We’re not done.

The Orioles scored an insurance run in the eighth after Francisley Bueno started the inning by walking Nate McLouth. A bloop single on a ball that right fielder Jeff Francoeur lost in the sun, a sacrifice and a passed ball brought McLouth around.

That “walks will haunt” isn’t a recent cliché.

It meant the Royals settled for a split in their four-game series against the Orioles after winning two of three in Chicago, i.e. a nice 4-3 trip instead of a very nice 5-2.

Chen, 8-10, got the loss after allowing four runs despite yielding just four hits in his 52/3 innings. There were also, of course, those season-high three walks.

“When I walked Adam Jones (in the sixth),” he said, “he fouled off some pitches. Then I tried to make him chase one, and he didn’t chase it.

“On Lew Ford, I thought I made a pretty decent pitch on a 3-2 count. It was close, but not close enough for (umpire Angel Campos) to call a strike.”

Luis Ayala, 4-3, got the victory for working a scoreless sixth. Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson protected the lead over the final three innings. Johnson got his 34th save in 37 chances by pitching the ninth.

“They’ve got a pretty strong back end of the bullpen,” Yost said. “Once they get the lead, you’ve got to hope they make a mistake and you put a good swing on the ball and you find some seats somewhere.”

The Royals didn’t find the seats — they didn’t find anything — in going hitless against the four Orioles’ relievers. Hunter threw 94 pitches before leaving after five innings but limited the damage to three runs.

It was 2-2 when Alex Gordon led off the fifth with a single to center. Alcides Escobar followed with a textbook hit-and-run single that moved Gordon to third. The Royals settled for one run when Mike Moustakas grounded into a double play.

Even so, they had the lead.

Just not for long.

Chen retired 10 in a row after yielding Machado’s two-run homer in the second before Markakis pulled the Orioles even in the fifth. Then came two one-out walks in the sixth and, well, you know the rest.

The second walk, to Ford, occurred after Chen jump ahead 0-2 on a .148 hitter.

Baltimore opened the scoring in the second after Reynolds worked a leadoff walk by winning a nine-pitch battle. Machado then punished another Royals pitcher for a hanging pitch by driving it over the right-center wall for a two-run homer.

Machado hit two mis-located pitches from Luke Hochevar for homers Friday in Baltimore’s 7-1 victory. Say this much: Machado doesn’t miss hangers.

“He looks like he’s going to be a good player for a long time,” Chen said. “We’d better get used to making good pitches against him because he looks like a real good player.”

The Orioles led 2-0.

Moustakas got one run back when he opened the fourth inning with his 18th homer on a high drive that clanged off the right-field foul pole.

Billy Butler followed with a single before Lorenzo Cain sent Markakis to the right-field wall for the first out. Francoeur punched a single past shortstop J.J. Hardy that moved Butler to second.

Hunter loaded the bases by walking Eric Hosmer, who worked back from an 0-2 hole.

Brayan Peña tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Butler when catcher Taylor Teagarden couldn’t hold the throw from McLouth. The other runners moved up to second and third.

The Royals could have had at least two more runs but for Reynolds, who made a sparkling stop on Chris Getz’s sharp grounder up the first-base line and turned it into the final out.

“I don’t know why he was playing there (near the line),” Getz said. “I guess he was there because Hunter throws a lot of cutters. It would have changed the game if that gets past him.”

It didn’t, though, and the game changed on walks.

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