Pena’s pair of home runs not enough
ROYALS 4, ORIOLES 3
kansas city, mo. — Orioles Manager Buck Showalter warned that the Kansas City Royals were better than their record indicated. And after two games at Kauffman Stadium, the Orioles are in danger of being swept by a Royals team that owns the worst record in the American League.
Backup catcher Francisco Pena hit two solo homers off Royals right-hander Nate Karns, but otherwise the Orioles had just four hits against Kansas City pitching in a 4-3 loss, their third straight one-run defeat.
Karns posted a career-high 12 strikeouts over just five innings. Karns, who received a no-decision, was remarkably efficient with his knuckle change-up, drawing 17 of his 18 swinging strikes on the pitch. Karns actually threw his change-up (42 times) more than his fastball (41) on the night.
The Orioles (22-13) have now lost three straight and have lost seven of their past 10 games on the road. Their record away from Camden Yards (9-10) is below .500 for the first time this season.
They have scored just five runs in two games at Kauffman Stadium, but their struggles have been compounded by a wounded bullpen that is forcing untested relievers into high-leverage situations.
Royals designated hitter Brandon Moss snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth with a solo homer off righthander Alec Asher (1-2). It was Moss’s second homer this series, and Asher — who has a reputation for keeping the ball in the park — has now allowed home runs in consecutive outings.
First baseman Chris Davis tied the game in the sixth inning with a solo homer off Royals reliever Seth Maness (1-0). But that was the Orioles’ final hit, as the Kansas City bullpen retired 12 of its last 13 hitters.
Pena entered Saturday night with just one home run in 54 major league plate appearances, but he predicted he’d find his power stroke for a special cause against the Royals.
With the teams wearing pink-lettered jerseys and caps Saturday and Sunday for Mother’s Day, Pena told Orioles public relations director Kristen Hudak during batting practice Saturday that he was going to hit a home run for his mother and then look into the MASN TV camera in the visiting dugout and wave to her.
Pena did better than that, swatting two solo homers — while swinging a pink bat — for the first multi-homer game of his big league career.
With his playing time set to diminish with the pending return of starting catcher Welington Castillo on Tuesday, Pena took advantage of a rare start. He launched a 2-2 knuckle curve from Karns into the Royals’ bullpen beyond the left field fence in the third in his first at-bat. He then took a firstpitch fastball over the Royals’ bullpen in his second at-bat in the fifth, giving the Orioles a 2-1 lead. As promised, Pena made his way to the dugout TV camera well after each homer.
Orioles catcher Francisco Pena points as he crosses the plate in the third inning after delivering on his vow to homer for his mother.