Orioles' struggles continue vs. Royals

Orioles' struggles continue vs. Royals

KANSAS CITY -- It ended as it began, disappointing bookends to a 51-game stretch under interim manager Juan Samuel, who made it no secret how important his last weekend at the Orioles' helm was to him personally.

"I expect these guys to go out there and leave everything on that field for me," Samuel said prior to Thursday's start of the four-game set in Kansas City, when news of Buck Showalter's hiring as skipper became official.

"Let's enjoy these last four days that we can be together."

Yet, even a chance to send the popular Samuel off with a welcome parting gift, and spare him a series loss, wasn't enough motivation for a beleaguered Baltimore squad.

Sunday's loss, a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Royals and former Oriole Bruce Chen -- in front of 14,662 at Kauffman Stadium -- put the O's at a new low. Literally. Baltimore dropped three of four games to a Royals squad that snapped a previous five-game skid and put the O's a season-high 41 games under .500.

"It's tough," outfielder Nick Marakakis said of handing Samuel a series loss in his final game. "But we busted our butts. We gave [Samuel] what we got. We just came up short, whether it was with pitching or in big situations."

It was an Orioles loss reminiscent of so many before it, starting with a problematic first inning for starter Kevin Millwood, who has allowed 34 of his 96 runs to come in the first frame. On Sunday, Millwood allowed an RBI double to Billy Butler, an RBI groundout to Jose Guillen and an RBI single to Wilson Betemit, to mark the 10th time in 11 starts he's started the game with a multi-run inning.

Millwood, who exited after allowing five runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings, walked off the field and stopped at the top of the dugout, tossing his glove over the covering and into the stands.

"I didn't like it," Millwood said when asked about the antic. "[The glove] hadn't been good to me."

Neither was the Orioles' play in Samuel's final series. With a managerial mark of 17-34, Baltimore showed flashes of improved play -- including a four-game sweep at Texas -- only to drop three consecutive games to a struggling Kansas City squad (45-60).

Two of the three defeats were by one run, making innings like the sixth -- in which the O's followed a bases-loaded situation with a double-play ball and a strikeout -- even more frustrating. Chen, who entered Sunday's contest with a 7.96 ERA in his last four outings, held the O's to three runs -- two earned -- over five innings.

"We aren't getting blown out," said Luke Scott, part of an O's lineup that went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. "We are battling hard, what can you say?"

You can say this: Baltimore is now on pace to lose 113 games, a mark that would eclipse the previous franchise worst -- 107 in 1988 -- by quite a margin. Sunday's loss capped a dismal seven-game road trip in which Baltimore went 1-6, falling to 3-14 since the All-Star break.

Sending Samuel off without a series win, while disappointing, certainly wasn't unexpected.

"You wish it would have ended differently with a few more wins here," Samuel said. "But we have nothing to be ashamed of."

With Showalter slated to take over on Tuesday, Samuel is unsure whether he will return to his former position as third-base coach, noting how it would be an "uncomfortable" situation.

"I am very thankful and I expressed that to [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] many times," Samuel said. "I have told him, 'Don't think that the decision I make, don't think it's me being angry. I just don't want to be in a position where you can be uncomfortable and your players can be uncomfortable at the same time. So you are probably looking at the best decision for the club and the whole organization really."

When asked what he wants the players to remember most from his short time as manager, Samuel hoped it was his honesty.

"I tried to just be myself and be as honest as I could with these guys," he said. "It's something I learned from guys I played for. ... So hopefully the experience was good and these guys know that I tried my best. And we had fun learning together."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.