Bullpen flareups costly for Orioles

Bullpen flareups costly for Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Before Tuesday's game, Orioles manager Dave Trembley was clear about the expectations for starting pitcher Jason Berken.

"Win," Trembley said. "Just win. Just win."

And after six solid innings of work, with the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead, it appeared Berken was going to meet those expectations.

But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead, as the Royals tied the game in the eighth inning then took the lead in the 11th, holding on for a 4-3 victory over Baltimore.

"Berken did what he had to do," Trembley said. "He left the game with a lead and pitched well enough to win. He really settled down after the first inning, got the ball down. It was just a game that somebody's gonna win it and somebody's gonna lose. Unfortunately we didn't get it."

Although Berken may not admit it, Tuesday's start was arguably the most important for the rookie right-hander. With prospect Chris Tillman joining the rotation Wednesday, the Orioles were faced with the decision of moving a starter down to the Minors, with Berken among those considered. The team will announce the move before Wednesday's game.

Just three batters into Tuesday's game, it appeared Berken was in for another rough night. The right-hander gave up a two-run home run to Billy Butler, putting the Orioles into an early hole.

The Orioles answered back in their half of the first inning. Adam Jones tied the game with a blast to left field, his 16th on the season. Jones' home run was his 10th this season in which it either tied the game or gave the Orioles the lead.

With a chance to start over, Berken settled down after the opening inning, keeping the Royals off the scoreboard for the remainder of his outing. The righty lasted six innings, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out three.

"It's never fun to give up two runs in the first and put your team in the hole," Berken said. "Jones hit the home run in the first to get us back to even, so once we got back to even I said, 'I've gotta pitch and keep us in the game and give us a shot to win.'"

Berken did exactly that, leaving his team in position to get the win with a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh inning. After both teams put crooked numbers on the board in the first, neither tallied a run again until the sixth, when Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters hit an RBI single into right field, scoring Nolan Reimold. Wieters set a career high with four hits, all of which were singles. The slim lead would be short-lived, however.

Reliever Jim Johnson gave up a solo shot to Willie Bloomquist to start the eighth inning, eliminating Berken's chance at snapping a personal eight-decision losing streak. It was the fifth home run given up by Johnson in 2009 after he didn't surrender any in '08.

With the game tied at 3, the Orioles had several chances to regain the lead. Baltimore had runners in scoring position in both the seventh and eighth innings but was unable to capitalize as the game headed to extra innings. In all, the Orioles stranded 11 baserunners and went just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

"We certainly had a lot of guys up tonight in situations where we could have broke through," Trembley said, "but it didn't happen. "We hit some balls good, had some very good at-bats, they got out of it and made a little bit better pitches. That's all."

Those missed opportunities eventually cost the Orioles. The Royals struck again, this time off reliever Danys Baez in the 11th inning. Catcher John Buck hit a double to right field, sending Mark Teahen home from second and giving Kansas City the game-winning run.

Joakim Soria picked up his 17th save of the season, getting Jones to ground out to end the game. Kansas City's bullpen has now pitched nine scoreless innings over the past two games. During its last homestand, the bullpen allowed 27 earned runs in 26 innings.

The Orioles fell to 11-12 in one-run decisions.

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