It’s becoming an art form — all right, an excruciating art form — the way the Royals keep finding ways to come up short against the Baltimore Orioles.
Saturday’s 6-5 loss extended the streak to 12 in a row and included a rain delay of 1 hour and 52 minutes in the first inning after the Royals had already worked themselves into a 3-0 hole.
It also included another boatload of wasted scoring opportunities, the most grievous of which came in the seventh when the Royals put the tying runs on base at first and third with no outsand got nothing.
This was an absolutely miserable night at Kauffman Stadium that drove away all but a few hundred hardy souls by game’s end when howling winds were churning whitecaps in the outfield fountains.
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It ended with the tying run at second base after Billy Butler pounded a two-out RBI double into the left-center gap against Baltimore closer George Sherrill. The ball seemed to be a game-tying homer off the bat _ complete with celebratory fireworks _ before it died in the wind.
Sherrill then closed out the victory by retiring Mark Grudzielanek on a grounder to third for the final out.
Royals starter Brett Tomko, 1-4, turned in a bi-polar effort that included six runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings while he was striking out eight and walking none. Three of those runs came on a homer by Kevin Millar in the first inning before the rains forced a halt.
The Orioles had not hit a three-run homer all season before arriving Thursday at the I-70 Welcome Wagon. Now, they have hit one in three straight games _ something they last did in 2000.
Baltimore had also lost five in a row and 17 of 27 before the series opened. The Orioles will go for a four-game sweep this afternoon on Mother’s Day. The last opponent to sweep a four-game series here was the Twins from Aug. 3-6, 2006.
The 12 straight losses to a single opponent, while numbing, aren’t close to a club record. The Royals once lost 23 straight to these same Orioles from May 10, 1969 to Aug. 2, 1970.
Well, not exactly these Orioles. Those 23-in-a-row Orioles had Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Boog Powell, etc., and went to the World Series in both years.
The Royals just keep making these Orioles seem like those Orioles.
Baltimore lefty Garrett Olson, a rookie, wobbled at times but got the victory by preventing the Royals from producing a big inning. Olson, 2-0, allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Four relievers followed Olson with Jim Johnson pulling the eighth-inning escape after replacing Jamie Walker with no outs and runners at second and third. Johnson struck out Butler and Grudzielanek before retiring José Guillen on a grounder to second.
Sherrill’s save was his 13th in 15 opportunities.
The Royals, 15-21, finished with 13 hits, including at least one from eight of their nine starters. They are now 1-5 on a 10-game homestand that concludes next week with three games against Detroit.
Tomko opened the game by yielding successive singles to Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora but was poised to escape unharmed until testing Kevin Millar with a fourth straight fastball.
Millar turned on it and yanked it 356 feet into the left-field seats for a three-run homer. It was his fifth homer of the year.
The Royals got one run back in the third on Esteban German’s sacrifice fly to shortstop _ yes, shortstop. Singles by Joey Gathright and David DeJesus, and a double steal, put runners at second and third.
German then looped a fly into short left-center field. Freddie Bynum retreated and made the catch but slipped when he went to plant his foot to make the throw home. That enabled Gathright to score easily.
The Orioles extended their lead to 4-1 with three straight one-out singles in the fifth before knocking out Tomko in a two-run sixth. Mora produced the RBI in the fifth, while Adam Jones’ one-out RBI triple was the key blow in the sixth.
Olson exited after giving up one run and three one-out hits in the sixth. Butler singled, went to third on Grudzielanek’s double and scored on Guillen’s single.
Chad Bradford replaced Olson and yielded an infield single to John Buck, which loaded the bases. Gathright grounded to third but avoided the double play, which scored another runs and trimmed the deficit to 6-3.
Bradford avoided further damage when Tony Peña swung at the first pitch and sent a routine hopper back to the mound.
The Royals pulled closer after DeJesus opened the seventh with a triple to right against Walker. German followed with an RBI single off Bynum’s glove at short.
Gordon followed with a single past first that finished Walker and put the tying runs on base. Johnson entered at the point and quelled the comeback.