BALTIMORE (AP) — All season, the Baltimore Orioles relied on a simple formula — hit more homers than the other guys and use a deep relief corps to outpitch them in the late innings.
So much for that.
Orioles hitters failed to go deep, their pitchers allowed three long balls in a rain-soaked AL Championship Series opener, including Alex Gordon’s no-doubt-about-it solo shot and Mike Moustakas’ two-run, wall-scraper in the 10th inning, and Baltimore lost 8-6 to the Kansas City Royals in a game that finished after 12:45 a.m. Saturday.
Darren O’Day, the fifth of Baltimore’s six relievers, got out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, but then served up Gordon’s tiebreaking homer leading off the next inning.
“Got out of a situation you don’t expect to get out of,” O’Day said. “And then, as easy as that — like I’m throwing batting practice — give up the home run.”
Game 2 is Saturday afternoon in Baltimore, with the Royals starting rookie left-hander Yordano Ventura against righty Bud Norris.
Baltimore topped baseball this season with 211 homers, led by Nelson Cruz’s majors-high 40, while Kansas City ranked last with 95. Completely irrelevant on this night, no matter how loudly and often the sellout crowd of 47,124 chanted “Let’s go, O’s!” or “We won’t stop!” while twirling their orange towels.
“We know we’re capable of hitting home runs,” said Gordon, whose neck was still red from getting smacked by a pitch in the eighth. “We didn’t do it during the regular season, but it doesn’t really matter.”
Of Baltimore’s 14 hits, only two went for extra bases — a pair of doubles. Otherwise, it was single here, single there, and not enough to show for it.
“You never know what can happen,” center fielder Adam Jones said.
The rowdy home fans got real quiet after the go-ahead drive by Gordon — his first since early September — leading off the 10th against sidearmer O’Day to break a 5-5 tie, and a pack of Royals fans could suddenly be heard.
“I mean, a mistake — and he didn’t miss it,” catcher Nick Hundley said.
Moustakas connected off Brian Matusz, who replaced O’Day, to make it 8-5.
“Those guys have been great for us all year. We like our guys. We like our guys in the bullpen. We like our arms,” Hundley said. “One game does not the series make.”
The Orioles tried to rally in the 10th. Pinch-hitter Delmon Young singled home a run with two outs, but closer Greg Holland retired Nick Markakis on a grounder with two on to end it.
No playoff team has been as successful beyond the ninth inning as the 2014 Royals.
The Royals already were the first team in major league history to win three consecutive extra-inning postseason games: They beat the Athletics in the wild-card game in 12 innings, then won each of the first two games of their ALDS sweep of the Angels in 11.
Those wins over Los Angeles both came via homers, just like this latest victory.
Kansas City started things against Baltimore by going deep, too, making for neat bookends.
In what would become a four-run third inning thanks to Gordon’s bases-loaded, broken-bat double, Orioles starter Chris Tillman tried to sneak a 90 mph fastball on a 2-0 count past Alcides Escobar.
The ball landed a few rows past the wall in left for a rare homer: The shortstop had three in 2014, and only 21 in nearly 3,000 career at-bats across parts of seven seasons in the majors. As Escobar rounded third, he let out a shout and pointed to the sky.
“It’s win at all costs,” said Orioles closer Zach Britton, who walked the bases loaded in the ninth before O’Day came in to keep the Royals from scoring there. “You kind of throw what you did in the regular season out the window and you try to find a way to win.”
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