BALTIMORE (TNS) — On the Camden Yards mound Wednesday evening, Royals reliever Kevin McCarthy went down easy.
He didn’t have much time to waste. Orioles designated hitter Mark Trumbo's bat had connected with a mistake — a 93 mph fastball left up and over the plate. Trumbo sent the pitch screaming up the middle of the field.
McCarthy droppped to the ground, his glove up in self-defense, as the ball ripped into center field at 107 mph. The two-out single scored two runs and gave the Orioles an eighth-inning lead in the Royals’ 5-3 loss.
A day after clobbering the Orioles with a barrage of 20 hits in a 15-7 win, the Royals were limited by Orioles starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to three runs and six hits, two by Lucas Duda — a two-out, two-run homer to the opposite field that gave the Royals a third-inning lead and an RBI single in the sixth.
Yet the Royals still forced Cashner, who held them hitless through 3 2/3 innings, to labor. He exited after throwing 111 pitches in six innings and allowing a double each to Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield in his final frame.
In the end, only the bullpens factored into the decision. Royals rookie starter Eric Skoglund put together his second-best performance of the season. After allowing a three-run homer to Chris Davis in the fifth and putting runners on the corners with no outs in the sixth, Skoglund retired the last six batters he faced.
Skoglund received plenty of defensive help, including an fifth-inning double play and a diving stop by Mike Moustakas in the sixth. Trumbo, who Skoglund held hitless in three at-bats, scorched a two-out line drive to third base. Moustakas went to the ground, corralled the ball and tossed it just wide of first base. Duda, with his body extended, dived to stop the ball from eking past him.
But the umpire deemed Trumbo safe at first base. Moustakas was charged with an error.
Royals replay coordinator Bill Duplissea challenged it. Although video shown in the press box didn’t supply an angle supporting the Royals’ challenge, umpires in New York conceded the point. They decided Duda had stretched his 6-foot-4 frame just enough to keep his foot on the bag for the third out of the inning.
“I give them all the credit,” Skoglund said. “Moose is one of the best at third base. Especially what Duda was able to do, even offensively, just some clutch hits able to keep us in the game.”
Skoglund was allowed to face one batter to start the seventh inning before yielding to McCarthy. In his second-longest outing of the season, Skoglund tossed 86 pitches in 6 1/3 innings and struck out three.
Duplissea, who entered Wednesday with a 68 percent career success rate on challenges, has had the call overturned on all 11 replay challenges he’s enacted this season. He added a second successful challenge in the ninth. The Royals are the only team to assemble a perfect start to their replay review season.
“Dale (Sveum, Royals bench coach) was the one,” manager Ned Yost said. “For me it looked like he was obviously off the bag. Dale said, ‘Those will fool you right there.’ And he got on the phone and sure enough it did. He stayed on the bag long enough just to catch it.”
It wasn't enough. The Royals (12-24) struck out in back-to-back at-bats and stranded two men in scoring position in the ninth inning.
“(Alcides Escobar) couldn’t get the bunt down,” Yost said. “But then the big double steal (by Merrifield and Alex Gordon) still put us in the same position we wanted to be in with Jon Jay at the plate. They just pitched Jon tough.”