Orioles let big fifth slip away in loss

O's drop opener to Royals

BALTIMORE -- For the second straight night, the Orioles and closer George Sherrill had their opponent down to the last strike. In to save a one-run game for the Orioles, Sherrill sent the exact same two-out, 0-2 pitch he offered to the Nationals' Ronnie Belliard on Sunday to Royals pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo. Olivo handled Sherrill's slider in exactly the same fashion, placing it into the left-field seats.

Instead of watching their opponent walk-off with the win, the Orioles had to wait until the top of the 11th inning on Monday for the knockout punch. With reliever Chad Bradford in to pitch, the Royals claimed a 6-5 victory and handed the Orioles their second consecutive extra-inning loss when Jose Guillen lined a single to right field to score Mike Aviles from second base.

After blowing his fifth save of the season, Sherrill sent a bucket of gum flying out onto the field from the dugout in frustration.

"Same pitch, same spot," he said. "I was just trying to bounce it, and both of them rolled. You hope that maybe it just doesn't get to the plate. It's a thin line. It just got there and hung."

It was the fifth home run Sherrill has allowed this season, and the Royals' first pinch-hit home run since Sept. 24, 2007, when Mark Grudzielanek took Baltimore reliever Jamie Walker deep.

"That's just a frustrating situation," Kevin Millar said of Sherrill's dugout outburst. "And if you're in the arena, you know that feeling. Georgie is very competitive and just made one bad pitch. He did a great job -- two sliders in the dirt -- then put one over the plate and Olivo hit the ball out."

The Orioles, who have shown a penchant for late-inning comebacks themselves this season, are almost a sure thing (30-2) with the lead after the seventh inning -- a lead like the 5-4 one they took into the ninth Monday night.

All of this came after the Orioles broke open a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning by shelling Royals starter Zack Greinke for four runs on five hits. Leading off the inning with a triple, center fielder Adam Jones came around to score the go-ahead run one batter later on Alex Cintron's ground-rule double. Cintron would leave the game in the seventh inning with a strained hamstring after running out an infield single and will be re-evaluated Tuesday morning.

But the Orioles' offense wasn't finished lighting up Greinke. Nick Markakis knocked Cintron in with an RBI single up the middle. Aubrey Huff sent Markakis home with an RBI double to right, and Millar brought Huff home with an RBI single.

And yet the Royals continued to chip away at Baltimore's lead. Orioles starter Brian Burres turned in a solid five-plus inning outing after struggling with a stomach illness for the past few days. Burres, who finished with a no-decision and gave up just one run on five hits and three walks, handed the bullpen a four-run lead to protect in the sixth inning.

"He pitched better than I expected," manager Dave Trembley said. "After missing the amount of time he did being sick, I didn't think he'd be as strong as he was. I thought he was very effective."

After Burres surrendered a leadoff single to Mark Teahen in the sixth, he pulled from the game. Reliever Ryan Bukvich, however, wasn't much better in Burres' stead. After getting a quick 5-4-3 double play, Bukvich let the next four batters reach by way of two singles, a double and a walk -- allowing the Kansas City's two runs in the inning. One inning later, reliever Dennis Sarfate committed a balk, dropping the ball when he was already set with runners on first and third and two out, allowing the Royals to pull within one.

All this from a bullpen that is third-best in the American League with a 3.15 ERA.

"Not putting the zero up right then was a key part in the game, especially after we had just scored," Trembley said. "I mean, that's been an emphasis for us probably for the better half of the last few weeks. I thought what Kansas City did tonight. After they scored, they put zeros up. They had shutdown innings. After we went out and scored the four, we did not do that and let them back in the game."

The loss was Baltimore's second consecutive series-opening defeat.

"We battled tonight," Millar said. "Against a tough pitcher, we scored five runs. Burres did a great job. Obviously, tonight, our bullpen had a tough time holding the lead, but we have confidence in them. Sarfate dropped the ball on the mound. You never see that. ... That's just baseball. But we get to come back out tomorrow."

Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.