The Baltimore Orioles found themselves butting heads with history after Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The Orioles trail the Royals three games to none in the American League Championship Series, and only once in baseball history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit and won a best-of-seven series — the Boston Red Sox against New York in the 2004 ALCS.
The Orioles put up a brave front afterward, but it was hard convincing themselves it was possible to win four straight against a Royals team has won all seven of its postseason games this year.
“We’ve got one loss left,” said first baseman Steve Pearce, who doubled, hit a wicked line drive to diving Mike Moustakas at third and flied out. “We’ve got to find some way to start pulling these games out.
“Offensively, they’re getting it done, finding some way to get that run across. All three games, they’ve gotten that big timely hit, and we’ve been unable to do that.”
Center fielder Adam Jones put it more succinctly: “We’ve got to win. There’s no ifs, ands or buts. It’s do at this point.”
Even before the game, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter sounded like a man headed to the gallows when asked if the Royals were built to win in the postseason while his AL East champions went into the postseason without three All-Stars — catcher Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery), third baseman Manny Machado (knee) and first baseman Chris Davis (suspension).
“They’re built to win, period,” Showalter said of the Royals. “There’s a part of it that really pulls for people like them, and their front office people and their coaches and Ned (Yost), for that matter.
“Somebody has to go home unhappy and feel unfulfilled, and that’s sad. You try not to dwell on it. But it’s the reality of the world we’re in right now. They’re built … they qualified for the playoffs. What did they do? They earned it. And you can’t say somebody is getting hot at the right time. We play too many games. You are who you are. And because we play so many games, there are no Cinderellas in baseball.”
Showalter understood the 29-year hill the Royals climbed from his experience sharing the spring training complex when he managed the Texas Rangers from 2003 to 2006.
“I got to be real close with the organization,” Showalter said. “I know how much it means to them and how hard they worked.”
The Orioles broke on top 1-0 in the second on back-to-back doubles by Pearce and J.J. Hardy, giving Baltimore its first lead in the series.
But the Orioles would manage just one more hit, a leadoff single by Nick Markakis in the third, against the Royals’ relay team of starter Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
Royals pitchers retired 16 straight and 21 of the last 22 batters in no small part because of some defensive gems by Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
“Their defensive plays have probably been the difference in the series so far,” said Showalter. “They’ve turned a lot of hits into outs and foul balls that would have continued an at-bat.”
Baltimore lefthander Wei-Yin Chen, making the first start by a Taiwanese-born pitcher, was 2-0 against the Royals this season. But he took the loss after the Royals pierced him for single runs in the fourth and sixth. In the fourth, Chen surrendered a pair of one-out bloop hits to Cain and Hosmer, and after Billy Butler walked, Alex Gordon drove in the tying run with a ground out.
And in the sixth, Nori Aoki singled to center, pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson went to third on Hosmer’s laser of a single to right, and scored the game-winner on Butler’s sacrifice fly, putting the Orioles on the brink of elimination.
“Our guys always feel like we’re one win away from getting the thing going the other way,” said Showalter. “We always feel the momentum can change. If we can get one under our belt, get a few things to work our way and get things to spin the other way.
“Otherwise we shouldn’t show up (Wednesday).
“I know what our guys in our locker room feel like. They know they’re up against some good competition. But always one more opportunity away. … We’ll sleep fast, and our guys will be ready.”
To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @randycovitz.